Cornell Suicides: "Means Restriction" Too Late For Three Students

The Ginsburg family of Boca Raton, FL, lost their son on February 17, 2010, when he jumped into the Falls Creek gorge, on the Cornell University campus.

Within four weeks, two other Cornell students, William Sinclair and Matthew Zika, jumped to their deaths into the gorge.

Suicide by students at Cornell, or elsewhere, was not uncommon, in fact, suicide is a second leading cause of death for people of high school and college age. Many times, the youthful urge to kill oneself is an impulsive act.

Over decades, suicide at Cornell University has often been accomplished by jumping into the gorges off the bridges that cross over them.

Between 1990 and 2010, 29 persons attempted suicide by jumping from the bridges into the gorges. Twenty-seven of those were successful in ending their lives. Fifteen of the twenty-seven were Cornell University students. Seventeen persons jumped from City of Ithaca owned bridges; 12 from spans owned by Cornell University.

In reaction to the three jumping suicides during the spring semester of 2010, Cornell University took immediate temporary action to fence the bridges to prevent further suicide behavior. That action is known as "means restriction", and is designed to interrupt, or impede, impulsive suicidal actions, by making them more difficult to accomplish.

Since then, after much study and consultation, and agreement with the City of Ithaca, permanent means restriction netting will be installed beneath each of the gorge bridges, acting as a deterrent to prevent convenient, "easy access" suicide from the bridges in the future.

Means restriction is not a new concept. The Empire State Building installed anti-suicide fencing on its observation deck in 1947; the library atrium at New York University was made safer by the installation of Lexan panels after two students jumped to their deaths; MIT dorm window openings were restricted after student suicides from upper floors.

The installation of means restriction devices by Cornell and Ithaca is too late for Bradley Ginsburg, William Sinclair and Matthew Zika.