Suicides Point To Need For More Mental Health Funding

By Assemblyman John Wisniewski

We were all truly saddened to learn that yet another person had chosen to jump off the Victory Bridge and end their life.  It is nearly impossible to imagine the pain and sorrow felt by a family when a loved one decides to take their own life, and my heart goes out to the families of all these individuals.  Equally, it is difficult to grasp the turmoil someone must be going through to make such a tragic and irreversible decision. 

This most recent suicide follows close behind two others and an additional attempt all made earlier this summer.  And while suicide rates in the state of New Jersey are among some of the lowest in the nation- so many instances, so close together and so very close to home might be telling us a different story. 

In the wake of these most recent suicides, some have been calling for fencing or other barriers to be placed on the bridge as a way to deter possible jumpers from the location.  I have asked the Department of Transportation to evaluate what can be done to make this bridge and literally thousands of others in the state more secure.   The Department needs to consider how many bridges should have fences and whether they will be an effective solution in the long run. 

For example, in September an individual jumped off a bridge over Route 1, climbing a high fence to do so. So while the solution may not reside solely in constructing barriers such as fencing, I plan to work closely with the Department of Transportation and all of the nearby communities affected by these tragedies to consider every viable option.

I do, however, believe that there is another approach we need to consider here.  These losses speak to the very real need for more funding for and accessibility to mental health services.  Historically these programs have been under funded.  Now that’s not to say that improvements haven’t been made to the mental health system over the years.  Since 2006, $45 million in new resources have been added and an additional $71 million has been directed toward community based services.  However, this more recent increase in the number of suicides is a very grim reminder of just how much more work still needs to be done.

Perhaps we need to stop focusing on ways to make the bridges less accessible to jumpers and ask ourselves- how do we make help available to these people before they get to the point where they are standing on the edge of a bridge, about to jump.  

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