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Construction begins on Golden Gate Bridge suicide-prevention net

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It should be completed by 2021

Golden Gate Bridge in the fog. Photo by By Pack-Shot/Shutterstock

Although the Golden Gate Bridge is lauded for its beauty, it’s also a drew for suicide. So much so that a harrowing 2006 documentary detailed the frequency the bridge is used for jumpers. After years of debate, state officials will begin construction of a "suicide deterrent" net Thursday.

The net will be made of stainless steel mesh and situated 20 feet below the bridge, stretching 20 feet out from its edges. While the net would result in injures if someone jumped on it (e.g., broken bones), they could move their way to a drop off at either end.

The goal is to have the net span both sides of the bridge.

But the primary goal is for the net to act as a visual deterrent, acting more like a psychological barrier than just a physical one.

TIME has more:

Expected to be finished by 2021, the project initially estimated to cost $76 million now has a price tag of over $200 million. Priya Clemens, spokesperson for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, says that increase is partly due to the "experimental" nature of the project, which led designers to underestimate how much it would actually cost to attach a net of this size across more than a mile and a half of open water and windy air. While locals have floated the idea of adding some kind of barrier since the 1940s, just years after the bridge opened, discussions about the current project got started about a decade ago. Suicide prevention advocates have propelled it.

Exactly why the bridge is a suicide draw remains a mystery. “For some, the bridge is an easily accessible site— pedestrian access, a 4-foot railing, a bus stop, and a parking lot,” noted a 2009 study by The American Journal of Psychiatry. “For others, the bridge is a romantic final exit. Some believe bridge suicide is a painless death. One jumper reportedly left a note on the bridge reading, ‘Why do you make it so easy?’”

Last year alone, a known 39 people died jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, according NBC Bay Area. ”But bridge patrol workers were able to prevent an additional 200 people from committing suicide.”

The net will cost an estimated $193 million, with an estimated completion date of 2021.

If you are feeling suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the National Hopeline Network at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433). You can also visit Suicide Prevention Lifeline help.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA