Two men and two women jumped to their deaths off Midgley Bridge in four separate incidents over 4 months at the tail end of 2015. On Sunday morning, another woman took her life at the bridge.
Following the four suicides last year, the city of Sedona, Coconino County and the Sedona Fire District sent letters to the Arizona Department of Transportation urging the state agency to install fencing along the bridge. According to a story we reported on in December, ADOT officials said the installation will take place later this summer.
Unfortunately, that work was not soon enough to prevent Sunday’s death. We hope that ADOT makes the fence a priority and that work begins soon so that this death is the last one ever reported off Midgley.
Some Sedona residents have complained that fencing will ruin the view of the red rocks from Midgley Bridge.
True. Yet immaterial. Our Search and Rescue teams work to rescue the injured and the lost, treating unforeseen injuries and returning people to their families. They do not want to be pallbearers. Even though this sometimes comes with their duty, our community should not impose this heavy emotional burden upon them for a view it takes six seconds to drive over.
Nor should we tell another family we failed to prevent their loved one from taking their own life. That would be negligent, irresponsible and cruel — certainly not the kind of Sedona we want to call home. Sure, we love our scenery, but no view is worth a human life.
Others say people contemplating suicide will find other ways or places to do so. Perhaps, but without such access to a high bridge, a suicidal person has to find another method. That extra effort may provide enough time for them to warn someone of their intent or rethink the act entirely.
Deaths are not easy for news reporters. As journalists, we have a duty to report the news of our community, especially when it involves taxpayer-funded government agencies operating on public lands or rights-of-way. We must also balance that with the knowledge that these individuals are not simply names, but our neighbors, some with family members in the community.
I have also spoken with family members after many of these events. Those conversations, whether in our newsroom or over the phone, have been among the most difficult for me as both a journalist and a person.
All this notwithstanding, it is also our duty to notice warning signs and offer help to those who may be considering suicide. If you or someone you know has suicidal ideation, do not assume they will simply get better on their own. Seek help any and every way you can.
You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, toll free and confidentially, at (800) 273-8255.
Christopher Fox Graham
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