This study found that barriers are a cost-effective measure associated with reduced rates of suicide at bridge sites and their installation is a warranted strategy for suicide prevention.
The economic evaluation found that barriers installed at multiple bridge sites across Australia were a cost-saving intervention with a return of US $2.40 for every US $1 invested over 10 years. Further research is required for cliff sites.
Within Australia, 5% of all suicides in 2020 occurred by jumps from heights (eg, from bridges and cliffs). Despite the relatively low proportion of total suicides accounted for by this method, these sites are of high priority for several reasons. Suicide attempts involving jumping tend to be fatal, and suicides at these sites are often witnessed by bystanders. These sites also often gain reputations as places where people go to take their lives because of their accessibility and the media attention that often surrounds them.
Means restriction via barriers has been shown to be an effective suicide prevention strategy at these sites. Despite this, there is sometimes considerable resistance to installing barriers, with one of the key arguments being cost.
This research was led by Piuemee Bandara and was one of a number of studies that formed part of a major research project co-ordinated by Prof Jane Pirkis at the Centre for Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and supported by the TrackSAFE Foundation between 2020-2023. This paper was first published in April 2023.
Other papers published as part of this research project are available here.
10 September 2023