News flash: Toronto has many bridges, but only one with a big fence

News flash: Toronto has many bridges, but only one with a big fence

The fence on the Bloor Viaduct (Image: Commodore Gandalf Cunningham)

A few years back, after it had become synonymous with suicides, the city decided the Bloor Viaduct needed a bit of a make-over. At a cost of $6 million, the city added a fence-like suicide barrier to cut down the number of people who were ending their lives there. The good news, almost 10 years later, is that suicides at the Bloor Viaduct have essentially been eliminated. The bad news is that Toronto is still a city with two large river valleys running through it and plenty of other bridge options. Sadly, according to a recent study, the main effect of the Bloor barrier has been to shift suicides elsewhere.

The Globe and Mail reports:

“This is the first study to show that when a barrier was put on one bridge, there was an increase in suicides on other bridges in the city,” said Mark Sinyor, a resident psychiatrist at Sunnybrook health centre and one of the study’s two authors.

The bottom line, he said, is that it’s not enough to set up physical barriers in single spots that prove popular for people trying to end their lives: There’s a need for comprehensive programs that address mental health and suicidal ideation in the first place.

A price tag of $6 million to shift tragedies elsewhere in the city might not seem like a great deal, but for the city it was probably a no-brainer: it got the Bloor Viaduct out of the 2nd place spot on the list of the most deadly bridges in North America, and we’re just cynical enough to think that might have had something to do with it.

• Suicide barrier on Bloor Viaduct worked, but jumpers went elsewhere: study [Globe and Mail]
Bloor barrier hasn’t affected suicide rate, study finds [Toronto Star]