Discussing suicide off the Perrine Bridge, and lack of help signs

Twin Falls County, Jerome County


By Rachael Giffoni

According to the Suicide Prevention Action Network in Idaho, in 2007, the state had the 11th highest suicide rate in the nation, 28% higher than the national average.

The Perrine Bridge spans 1,500 feet across the Snake River Canyon, and drops about 500 feet. While it's popular with base-jumpers and tourists, there is also a tragic side. Some people use the long fall to end their lives.

After July 14th, 2008.. Carrie Beezley's perception of the Perrine Bridge was forever changed. Beezley said, “I force myself to come to terms with the bridge, because the bridge is everything to Twin Falls.”

That evening, her brother, Greg Topholm, 45, leapt to his death.
Beezley said, "Jumping off the bridge... we couldn't believe it. That was really hard for myself. For my family."

Since 2003, according to Twin Falls and Jerome County, a total of 12 people jumped 500 feet to their deaths, including a student, and a 64 year old Vietnam veteran.

While some bridges across the United States, such as the Golden Gate Bridge in California, and the George Washington Memorial Bridge in Washington, have suicide prevention hotline signs, the Perrine has nothing. Something the local Suicide Prevention Action Network, known as SPAN, tried to change in March 2010.

The local chapter sent a letter to the Idaho Transportation Department asking permission to place suicide hotline signs on the approaches to the bridge, or to put signs under existing road signs. That request was denied.

Idaho Transportation Department spokesman Nathan Jerke said, "Any signs like this, within the right of way, should deal with traffic control issues.”

Jerke says the rejection is a matter of state law. "This is a signage where the advertisement is seen for a suicide prevention hotline, so, it's seen more as an advertisement, as opposed to traffic control.

Questions linger of whether a sign, in the end, would make any difference. For Beezley: the answer is a simple one. She said, "Would it have helped my brother? I don't know. But I'm sure it would help somebody. And if it helps one person, that's all it would need to help.”

And so, the bridge continues to stand, for now, untouched by signs: a memory of her brother, gone, but never forgotten.

The local SPAN chapter says they might look into talking with Idaho Transportation Department officials in the future putting up prevention signs somewhere close to the entrance of the bridge.

Also, they say, they're looking into purchasing some billboards, near the bridge with the prevention hotline sign displayed.

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