Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Ironworkers and School Psychologists: Building Bridges and Saving Lives

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Ironworkers and School Psychologists: Building Bridges and Saving Lives

Article excerpt

At the February 24 San Francisco $K Walk/Run, two professions - ironwork and school psychology - met at Hopper's Hands and the Golden Gate Bridge. First commissioned by Golden Gate Bridge ironworker Ken Hopper, Hopper's Hands is a modest plaque initially intended to give runners a place to "high five" at this popular Bridge turnaround spot. The backstory, however, has a tender and powerful connection to suicide prevention and saving lives (Ostler, 2001).

Mr. Hopper, his colleague Kerry Davis, and other Golden Gate Bridge ironworkers have volunteered their tall structure climbing skills and their humanity to persuade, coax, or otherwise prevent troubled individuals from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Working in pairs and wearing safety harnesses, Hopper and Davis used their career skills to get close to the distraught person in order to begin a crucial conversation or, at times, to grab the individual to prevent them from jumping. Listen to Ken and Kerry's story, in their own words, catalogued by National Public Ratio's StoryCorps project (http://www.npr.org/templates/ story/story.php?storyld= 112483788) .

Though statistics are hard to confirm, the Golden Gate Bridge has the unfortunate distinction of being the launching point of more suicide jumpers than anywhere in the world. It is estimated that more than 1,300 individuals have committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge since its finished construction in 1937 (Bridge Rail Foundation, n.d.).

Another staggering figure: CDC 2008-2009 survey results indicated that nearly 14% of U.S. student respondents from grades 9-12 "had seriously considered attempting suicide during the 12 months before the survey" (CDC, 2010). The same survey also conveyed that incidents of attempted suicides were reported at a rate 1.76 times higher for girls than for boys. NASP's handout, "Suicide Prevention: Information and Strategies for Educators," notes that "(m)ales are almost five times more likely to die by suicide; however, females are two to three times as likely to attempt suicide or to report suicidal ideation" (CDC, 2002 as cited in Hart, Shelley, 8c Jimerson, 2010). In "Suicidal Students: Intervening at School," authors Brock and Riffey (2010) observe that "(s)uicidal ideation and behaviors have a tremendous effect on learning. Within a typical high school classroom of 30 students, it is likely that 3 students will have made suicide attempts within the past year."

At the intersection of these cautionary statistics and the NASP sK Walk/ Run are two seemingly divergent professions - Golden Gate Bridge ironworkers and school psychologists. …

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