Bridge Jumping

Bridge Jumping has been around for hundreds of years. It first took place in 1664 off the Stari Most bridge in Mostar, Bosnia and NOT with a bungee cord attached. Every year on May 1, Oxford scholars gather on the Magellan Bridge to jump into the Cheerful River.

'Get them before they're up on the bridge.' Share this story.
The Psychology of Bridge Jumping
Is the Rush Worth It?
Youngsters get new thrills with bridge jumping
Mostar Bridge Jumping
Traditional jumps in Mostar 2004
Every year on May 1 people gather on the Magdalena Bridge in Oxford to jump into the water of Cherwell River
End of high jinx
This is NOT Bridge Jumping. This is Base Jumping
Videos: Content Warning: Disturbing & Graphic

Kids face literally splits in half after diving goes ... yes crappy cell cam but you can still see his face split and doctors helping him out .... why didn't he just move a few yards down the bridge where there

A young man gets brought in to the ER after a diving attempt goes horribly wrong and gets his face Split open on a walkway below. Poor kid, it's amazing that he's still alive!

'Get them before they're up on the bridge.' Share this story.

Standing high above the San Francisco Bay, perched on an I-beam outside the Golden Gate Bridge railing, the man dressed neatly in khakis and a button-down shirt hesitated.

Kevin Briggs stood a few feet away, imploring him not to jump. In nearly 20 years as a California Highway Patrol officer policing the famous span, Briggs had more success than failure in talking troubled souls back from the ledge.

He and two other officers persisted for nearly an hour on this day in 2007, and the man, perhaps 35 years old, seemed touched by their earnestness. He reached over three separate times to shake Briggs' hand.

Then it was suddenly over. "He said, 'Kevin, thank you very much,' " Briggs recalls quietly, "and he left."

The man plummeted to his death in the waters below.

There's a suicide in the USA every 13 minutes.

A short ride from the Golden Gate Bridge where about 1,600 of these deaths have occurred over the years, actor-comedian Robin Williams took his life at his Tiburon home in August.

Americans are far more likely to kill themselves than each other. Homicides have fallen by half since 1991, but the U.S. suicide rate keeps climbing. The nearly 40,000 American lives lost each year make suicide the nation's 10th-leading cause of death, and the second-leading killer for those ages 15-34. Each suicide costs society about $1 million in medical and lost-work expenses and emotionally victimizes an average of 10 other people.

Yet a national effort to stem this raging river of self-destruction — 90% of which occurs among Americans suffering mental illness — is in disarray.

In a series of stories this year, USA TODAY explores the human cost of allowing 10 million Americans with mental illness to languish without care. On the dark edge of that spectrum is a consuming urge to die, and those committed to understanding suicide say there are potential solutions if there is a national will to seize on them.

The country seems almost complacent with this staggering death toll. America's health care community remains mired in confusion over how to tackle suicide mostly because the public — and with it, the federal government — never gets serious about finding crucial answers.

Basic questions about whether suicide is a public health problem, whether it can be prevented on a broad scale, whether suicidal thoughts and actions are a disorder or a symptom of other disorders, remain widely debated.

Perhaps as a result of this scattered approach to what is clearly a health crisis, greater sums of money and research are devoted to curing diseases and social ills that kill far fewer Americans despite clear historical evidence that more investment translates into more lives saved.

"Is there the kind of concerted effort (for suicide) that's been made with HIV, with breast cancer, with Alzheimer's disease, with prostate cancer?" asks Christine Moutier, chief medical officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. "There's never been that kind of concerted front."

"When we invested in HIV/AIDS and breast cancer, we dramatically reduced the rates of death," says Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice president of research for the foundation. "If we invest in suicide prevention — really invest in it — then we have a good shot at bringing it down."

The National Institutes of Health — the largest source of research money — spends a small fraction on suicide compared with diseases such as breast and prostate cancer that result in as many or fewer American lives lost. The suicide research budget for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has actually been shrinking since 2011.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention promotes several "winnable" priorities, among them motor vehicle injuries and HIV. Suicide, though more costly in lives than either of those categories, is not on the list.

Lawmakers' agendas are heavily influenced by public disinterest and a persistent view in the USA that anyone bent on killing themselves cannot be saved. Briggs saw the worst of this during suicide crises on the bridge when drivers passing by would yell out, "Go ahead and jump."

"If the public doesn't think you can do anything about it, they won't support it," says Alex Crosby, a CDC epidemiologist who focuses on suicide prevention.

"Can you really stop somebody who wants to kill themselves? I still hear that," says Jane Pearson, chair of the NIMH research consortium. "Changing that perspective is really critical."

Only in one area did Americans react to suicide. When soldiers started killing themselves in record numbers during two arguably unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a groundswell from the public and Congress drove the military to respond.

The Army suicide rate tripled from 2004 and 2012 as more than 2,000 GIs took their lives. A new RAND study says that since 2005, about $230 million was poured into suicide research, more than two-thirds of it from the military.

"All the military research is likely to benefit civilians as well," says Michelle Cornette, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology.

A centerpiece effort is a $65 million study — the cost split between the Army and NIH — analyzing soldier suicides and tracking tens of thousands of troops over a period of years to understand self-destructive urges.

"The level of detail we are getting ... nobody has ever done anything on that scale in any population relating to suicide risk," says NIMH study scientist Michael Schoenbaum. "We have an enormous amount to learn."

Briggs, who retired from the CHP last year, says answers are long overdue. Promoting crisis management and suicide prevention, he says the nation must find a way to treat despair before the only resort is a police officer begging someone not to jump.

"Get them before they're up on the bridge," Briggs says, "because when you're up on that bridge, it's almost game over."

When Matthew Milam smiled, dimples on his broad face ran deep, and his cheekbones grew round and high — the infectious look of someone who could light up a room.

"As a little kid, I used to always tell him he had heart," says his mother, Debbie.

Medication was the key after he grew up. Without it, Matthew toggled emotionally between a sweet, compassionate 24-year-old who loved to cook and was terribly shy around strangers — to someone consumed with paranoia who dug his own grave in the backyard and stood outside in a lightning storm, begging God to strike him down.

"It'd be like a light bulb going off," says his father, Pat, vice president of sales for an oil field service company in New Orleans.

Those with severe mental illness such as Matthew, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at 24, illustrate the gaping challenges researchers face in finding solutions to suicide. Half of those with schizophrenia, an illness marked by delusions and hearing voices, attempt suicide. One in 10 succeed.

Matthew's parents said his emotional state began to grow worse after he found his younger brother Michael dead at 18 of a heroin overdose in the family home in Harahan, La., in 2007.

Within a few years, Matthew was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and later with schizophrenia as more severe symptoms emerged.

He was institutionalized for brief periods four times in 2011, once after cutting his throat with a steak knife, according to his medical files. Each time, Matthew improved with medication and promised to stay on it. Each time after coming home, he would stop — a problem common to those suffering from bipolar disorder who believe the drugs dull their manic periods of elation.

Matthew's parents said they felt helpless to prevent their worst fears from coming true.

Equally frustrating, they said, was an inability to collaborate more closely with Matthew's doctors because of their son's privacy rights under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. The law restricts release of personal medical information for anyone 18 and older.

"As a parent, you really don't know what else to do. You try to go to doctors and talk to them and ask them what in the hell is going on?" Pat Milam says. "The first thing they always say is 'Oh, we can't talk about it. HIPAA. HIPAA.' "

In 2011, the year Matthew's life was in crisis, suicides across America had been on a steady rise for 12 years despite modest investments in research. A private-public partnership formed in 2010 called the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention decided to go back to basics.

The alliance formed a task force of leading experts and published a way forward on research this year. It asked fundamental questions: Why do people commit suicide? How can they be identified? What works? Where is most research necessary?

Some of the ideas could have been drawn right from Matthew Milam's short life story — how to prevent a second suicide attempt after a first try, how to continue needed care.

The challenge in cases like Matthew's is when potential answers clash with individual rights, says Eric Caine, who assisted the alliance task force and directs the Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Pat Milam says his son would be alive today if there had been a way to keep him medicated.

Some states allow for court-ordered treatment plans. No studies have been done on whether this could prevent suicides, another example of gaps in knowledge, Caine says. Such ideas, he says, lie "at the edge of what we know and what we don't know."

HIPAA restrictions, though frustrating to parent/caregivers of troubled adult children, enshrine coveted American principals of individual privacy protection, Caine says. Changing this would require substantial social debate.

The net result, he says, are many "fracture points or cracks or chasms that people can fall through." The despairing Matthews of the world "push away many, block those who would intervene and challenge our notions of individual autonomy," he says.

On Oct. 21, 2011, Matthew went into his closet and killed himself with a small homemade explosive. He fashioned it in secret. His parents were downstairs, waiting to take him to his next therapy session.

Sarah Clingan says severe depression feels like drowning, "where I can look up and see the bubbles from my nose rising toward the water's surface and am aware of every breath I can't take."

There is a profound sense of being alone, she says.

"One of the hardest things about mental illness is you can't walk into a hospital and show them you're broken," says Clingan, 30, a former preschool and kindergarten teacher who lives in Seattle.

The oldest child of a pediatrician father and a mother who is a speech therapist, Clingan grew up in Port Orchard, Wash., outside Seattle and was first diagnosed with depression during college.

The illness grew more severe after graduation when she began contemplating ways of overriding feelings of oppressive gloom whether it was through eating disorders, cutting herself or even suicide, Clingan says.

"It's wanting to escape," she says, "feeling like I had worked really hard and tried everything and knowing that my depression and mental illness was affecting the people around me that I cared about and not wanting to be a burden on them anymore."

Twice she tried to kill herself at age 26 with a medication overdose. During this period, she was finally introduced to one of the few tools validated in curbing suicides.

Known as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or DBT, it is an intense, team-therapy treatment. In the beginning, Clingan had access to a therapist round-the-clock. During therapy, she learned ways to avoid falling into familiar patterns of anxiety and developed tools to better tolerate feelings of sadness and hopelessness.

Last month, an American Journal of Preventive Medicine edition devoted to suicide (182 page PDF) identified five other promising therapies for curbing suicide attempts or self-harm. A small number of medications have shown promise as well.

"That's how early we are in the science around the interventions for suicide," says Moutier of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. "People are now turning toward it. Have they turned fully? No. Are they in the process? Yes."

Clingan says her therapy continues. She's enrolled in a master's program in social work at the University of Washington and began to blog about her life this year.

"I am alive," she wrote in a moment of exhilaration last May, "and it is a grand thing."

There is a sense for some that time is short and too many are at risk. A new World Health Organization study estimates that globally, there is a suicide every 40 seconds.

Urgency is all Army Capt. Justin Fitch thinks about. Time is running out for him personally, and he says there is too much left to do to stop suicides.

The 32-year-old commander of a headquarters unit at the Army's Soldier, Research, Development and Engineering Center in Natick, Mass., nearly succumbed to suicidal urges during his first combat deployment to Iraq seven years ago.

A combination of depression, loss of sleep and combat stress left him alone one day with his M-4 rifle in his shipping-container sleeping quarters.

"It was at the point where you have a gun up to your head, you can taste the carbon of a barrel in your mouth, and the only thing that stands between me and being a statistic is 4.5 pounds of trigger pressure," he remembers.

Fitch hesitated. He later reached out to a counselor on the base, and with the help of medication and therapy, he began coping with his depression. "It took time," he says.

Today, he cannot recover from colon cancer diagnosed in 2012 that doctors declared terminal last year. In June, they said he had only months left. Faced with his own mortality, Fitch consulted his wife, Samantha Wolk, and reflected on the 22 veteran suicides occurring each day. He chose to devote his remaining time to prevent others from committing suicide.

"I've always wanted to focus on trying to leave the world a better place," he says.

This sentiment, shared by others, has fueled modest victories in the war against suicide. "In pockets, there's been progress," says Rochester University researcher Caine.

Biological research led scientists in recent years to assert that suicidal behavior is a disorder that deserves to be included in the bible on mental health illnesses — the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder — so doctors could better diagnose, identify and move into treatment those who are suicidal.

American Psychiatric Association officials who periodically revise the manual want more study.

"It's really a shift to consider it a disorder unto itself," says Maria Oquendo, a psychiatry professor at Columbia University who urged that suicidal behavior be recognized as a disorder in the manual. "They (the authors) said it's an idea that obviously needs to be considered but is not quite ready for inclusion."

One fact about suicide that research has firmly established is that reducing access to lethal means reduces suicide. The result has been a national initiative to erect barriers at sites where suicides occur, most prominently a $76 million project to build steel nets along the Golden Gate Bridge. A record 46 suicides occurred there last year.

Prevention advocates say the death of Robin Williams shocked the public and led to a national discussion about suicide.

In what time he has left, Fitch is intent on tapping into this growing awareness to raise funds for his dream: completion of a retreat for at-risk veterans and their families on a 144-acre parcel of land in Shepherdsville, Ky. Despite chemotherapy that has drained him of strength and weight, Fitch has immersed himself in fundraising through the Active Heroes organization devoted to reducing suicides in the military.

To raise money, he's led "ruck marches," in which participants carry weighted backpacks or military rucksacks on long hikes. The most recent one weeks ago left him "physically destroyed, spiritually strengthened."

"Maybe I can inspire other people," he says. "It's OK to seek help. And when they raise their hand, everything humanly possible should be done to take care of that person. Because suicide is completely preventable."

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Crisis Text Line - text "SOS" to 741741

The Psychology of Bridge Jumping

The short version: Because if the popular kids did it, you probably would too. And you just might even like it.

Long answer: The social proof principle.

Over the past 2 years of really looking at 2 things: human psychology and Internet Marketing, social proof has been at the height of both. From the positive aspects to the highly sketchy techniques. And I’ve seen both, used both and tested both in many marketing campaigns. In this 3 part series I am going to look at 3 aspects of social proof and do my best to explain why the psychology of your parents teachings isn’t half bad (or at least not wrong).

  • Part 1: What is social proof and why does it matter?
  • Part 2: Borrowing social proof vs. actual social proof.
  • Part 3: How to get social proof quickly

Let’s begin and start to get twisted into some psychology…

What Is Social Proof?

After going through Mass Control, I started to learn more about social proof and was drawn to the book “Persuasion: The Psychology of Influence” by Robert Cialdini. The book is the most dry, boring read on the planet, but if instead of reading it, you study it, takes notes and apply what he is saying, it may be the most effective book on selling and marketing ever written.

Cialdini’s Social Proof

This book was written 1984 at a time before high pressure sales letters and marketing videos that don’t have play controls on them (beyond irritating), and before the Internet, but not before Direct Response Marketing made people uber-rich. But it does factor in that people are highly influenced by the actions of others.

He starts by talking about canned laughter, possibly best described as the sign in the studio audience that Jay Leno has light up whenever he snaps off another bad joke and needs a quick laugh from the studio audience to make said joke appear to be funny to the audience watching at home

The thing that Cialdidni points out that is simply amazing to the marketing eye is that even though people have told tv studios how much they hate canned laughter, it still works. It still causes those same people that know it is “fake” laughter to chuckle, smile or laugh. Kinda like how we know reality shows are not reality, but we relate and obsess to them anyway.

Here is Cialdini’s definition of social proof:

One means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct…We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.

So using Cialdini’s concept, if our friends jump off this mythical bridge, we see it as an acceptable behavior. If others are speeding on the highway, then hell, I’m going to speed on the highway. And if you have some crappy, worthless testimonials on your site from the same people that leave testimonials on every site, then I am going to yet again buy another info product I don’t need and just like everyone else, not read it/watch it/take action!

We sure do like to conform to the behaviors around us.

If you are downtown with a group of friends, passing some bars looking for a drink, are you going to go into the bar that is empty with the promoters outside begging you to come in and get a free fruity shot of Juicy Juice, or the one with the fresh music and the people that are like you?

Do you want to be the only fan at a concert, or do you want to be in a sea of other fanatical people?

Non Conformists / Lifestyle Designers / Internet Cool Kids

Two years ago it was cool to be a nonconformist, or a rebel or a 9-5 hater. Now it’s the norm. People expect it.

“Rebel against the system, yo.” I hear people screaming it all the time. That part is easy and the part that has social proof written all over it.

It’s easy to start a blog and start talking like everyone else. The topics, the comments, the way to grow your audience, the way to build subscribers, or a tribe, or a community, use buzz words, whatever.

The element here is that we all wanted to be like the guy the Internet Lifestyle promises to be - on the beach, maxing and relaxing, checking emails for sales and talking to our VA that runs our million dollar empire from a hut in an impoverished country that we feel awesome about paying her $5/hr.

And we all buy into it. We all buy stuff from long sales letters, even if we hate them and we all fall subject to wanting to know what the secret to this internet lifestyle is. If there was only the 1 tactic I needed to know so that I can have a lifestyle like “insert name of supposed cool dude here.”

Anyway, it’s just social proof in action. Following a crowd.

But social proof can be used for good, and it can be used in sales situations where you want to infleunce others who:

  • Can afford your product
  • Have a use for your product
  • Can benefit from your product
  • And the damn thing is actually valuable

But today, let’s leave off with some gut-checking: when have you followed the crowd and done something, either consciounciously or unconsciounsly and fallen victim to good old social proof tactics?

Is the Rush Worth the Risk?

With the advent of You Tube, bridge jumping has reached trend status as teens film themselves diving from increasingly dangerous heights, posting the heart-stopping videos to You Tube. 'Good Morning America' chronicled the extremely dangerous form of online one-upmanship. Footage shows thrill-seeking teens jumping from bridges and cliffs. "They are incredible jumps from outrageous heights, teens taking death-defying dives, even back-flipping off bridges. All documented and posted to You Tube, creating intense viral peer pressure," said one observer.

"It's primarily just all about feeling a bit of freedom for that moment," explains another. But chasing that rush can be fatal. Nineteen-year-old Wade McCurdy died after taking a 65-foot plunge off a bridge. Another teen heard the wake-up call when she hit the water so hard, the blood vessels in her legs were instantly broken. And a third, a very disturbing video of a young man who's face literally splits in half.

Content Warning. Be forwarned. This is a very graphic video.

Youngsters get new thrills with bridge jumping

Experimenting with risk-taking behavior, whether it's drugs, alcohol or fast cars, is something teens and young adults often do. There's a new danger to add to that list: some are finding a new thrill in the dangerous practice of bridge jumping.

Travel north on highway Y between St. Charles and Lincoln counties, and you'll find a small bridge over the Cuivre River. It's not a heavily trafficked route, only a few cars each day. But during the summer months, the bridge comes to life -- with foot traffic.

The spot is known among teens and young adults as a place to bridge jump.

Marti, 21, used to jump all the time, until her best friend died on a jump right behind her. She asked us not to show her face or use her last name.

Stories like Marti's don't seem to scare jumpers who've never had an accident. NewsChannel 5 cameras spent several days at this bridge shooting this group from a distance, to make sure our presence didn't encourage them. Afterwards, our news crew approached and identified itself. They continued jumping.

Some have had close calls before, like the time it was raining hard. But they said the adrenaline rush keeps them coming back.

When it comes to jumping, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said there is simply no safe cliff or bridge to do it from, and for two important reasons: people usually overestimate their swimming skills, and depth perception is almost always wrong when it comes to water.

But because of the geography of the bi-state, with the bluffs and the rivers, there's always a new place for jumpers to try to get that rush. It was a lesson that cost Marti her best friend last October.

Their spot: about 100 miles south of St. Louis, a small town called Old Appleton. The town's foot bridge runs over a popular swimming hole. Unseasonably warm weather wasn't enough to raise the water's temperature, which was just 34 degrees.

Next in the water was 32-year-old Chris Grindstaff. When Marti finally made it to shore, she saw Chris behind her, treading water. She went back on the bridge to get towels. She looked over the bridge, but could not find Chris.

Neighbors tried to help and police were called, and according to reports, the scene was "reclassified as a recovery mission." Grindstaff's body was pulled from the water a few hours later.

Marti acknowledges the thrill that comes with jumping, but says now the rush isn't worth the risks.

Most citations related to bridge jumping are for trespassing or holding up traffic. Water patrol officers said the area simply has too many jumping spots to patrol them all.

Mostar bridge jumping

Stari Most (English translation: "The Old Bridge") is a 16th century bridge in the city of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina that crosses the river Neretva and connects two parts of the city. The Old Bridge stood for 427 years, until the bridge was destroyed on November 9, 1993 during the Bosnian War. Slobodan Praljak, the commander of the Croatian Defence Council, is currently on trial at the ICTY for ordering the destruction of the bridge, among other charges. Consequently, a project was set in motion to rebuild it, and the new bridge opened on July 23, 2004.

It is traditional for the young men of the town to leap from the bridge into the Neretva. As the Neretva is very cold, this is a very risky feat and only the most skilled and best trained divers will attempt it. The practice dates back to the time the bridge was built, but the first recorded instance of someone diving off the bridge is from 1664. In 1968 a formal diving competition was inaugurated and held every summer. The first person to jump from the bridge since it was re-opened was Enej Kelecija, a local who now resides in the United State.

Traditional jumps in Mostar 2004

Last week of July the famous "Stari Most" bridge in Mostar (Bosnia Herzegovina)was re-opened after its destruction during the Balkan war, attracting international participation and recognition. At Saturday, 31st of July this bridge was the location of the traditional bridge jumping, which has been taking place in this town for 438 consecutive years. At the "Ikari 2004", 75 participants from Mostar and all other states of former Yugoslavia - including three veterans of more than 70 years of age - jumped off the 22 meters bridge which had been reconstructed just like the original. Ahead of 30.000 spectators the winner became one of the favourites Haris Dzemat (29). For the first time in the history, three professional cliff divers also jumped off the bridge (out of competition). World Champion Orlando Duque from Colombia, Australian Joe Zuber and Zvezdan Groscic from Serbia were the attractions.

End of high jinx

Oxford scholars beat bridge-jumping ban... by lowering themselves into the river for a risk-free paddle

Leaping from a bridge at dawn has been the way for students at Oxford University to see in the summer for decades.

But when college officials outlawed the age-old May Day tradition amid safety fears, young scholars thought the game was up.

These enterprising young academics, however, found a way around the ban... by gingerly lowering themselves into the cold water for a risk-free paddle.

Double barriers and private security ensured there were no risky leaps from the Magdalen Bridge into Oxford's River Cherwell.

So determined not to let the ban ruin their fun, the daring team of five stripped down to their smalls before taking a dip from the river bank instead.

This is NOT Bridge Jumping. This is Base Jumping

Even then, 71% of all Bridge Day landings are safely made on shore while 28% land in the water? The remaining 1% is reserved for unfortunate jumpers who opted for the railroad tracks, trees, etc.

Bridge Day, held on the third Saturday in October every year in Fayetteville, West Virginia, is the largest extreme sports event and largest gathering of BASE jumpers in the world. More than 450 BASE jumpers from 10+ countries and 40+ US states will leap from the 876' tall New River Gorge bridge, hundreds of rappellers will descend on fixed ropes, and up to 200,000 spectators are expected to attend this year's Bridge Day on Saturday, October 15, 2011 from 9am-3pm EDT. BASE jumper registration begins on July 1, 2011 at 2pm EDT via our web store. For those with no parachuting experience, but a desire to make a BASE jump at Bridge Day, please check out our Tandem BASE Jumping information page.