Suicide in R.I., by the numbers
Despite the efforts of public-health and police departments and other entities, suicide statistics do not — cannot — represent the full reality. In the case of jumps from bridges over tidal waters, the body of everyone who dies by that means is not found, precluding autopsy by the state medical examiner (and there are instances when the medical examiner after autopsy is unable to make a definitive finding). Not everyone has a family or friends who could make a report when someone goes missing.
In writing “Redemption: The Fall and Rise of Mark Gonsalves,” The Journal asked appropriate sources to share statistics they keep. By virtue of overlapping authority, some of the numbers may be redundant. Some entities provided statistics dating back further than others, in part a function of when they began keeping electronic records. Some entities cannot or do not track all categories.
Note that The Samaritans of Rhode Island do not independently gather statistics.
These are the numbers provided to The Journal.
R.I. medical examiner records of suicide deaths on three R.I. bridges
Jan. 1, 2010, through Nov. 20, 2018:
Mount Hope: 12
R.I. Turnpike and Bridge Authority records for four bridges
2013 through Nov. 29, 2018:
Mount Hope: 12 suicides, 12 attempted.
Pell: Seven suicides, 15 attempted.
Jamestown: Four suicides, four attempted.
Sakonnet: zero suicides, one attempted.
Note: “Attempted” means survived jump or talked out of jumping.
Suicides/attempted suicides investigated by R.I. State Police, by location
From December 1999 to Nov. 27, 2018:
Jamestown/Old Jamestown Bridge: 26 incidents
Mount Hope Bridge: 14 incidents.
Pell Bridge: 51 incidents.
Sakonnet River Bridge: 1 incident.
Of total 92 incidents:
51 confirmed and/or believed to be confirmed suicides.
41 attempts in which the person is confirmed and/or believed to have survived.
Note: These are only incidents that state police investigated, not a complete list of all suicides/attempts on any of these bridges, since state police were not involved in every instance.
Suicide records kept by Newport police for Pell Bridge
From 2002 to Dec. 11, 2018:
14 successful suicides.
1 other “was picked up out of water and was talking but I believe later died; it was state police that took that one,” said Lt. Kevin Moreira, Newport Police Department.
Note: Many of these were assists for R.I. State Police
Suicide records for Pell and Jamestown bridges kept by Jamestown police
From Jan. 1, 2008, to Dec. 20, 2018:
42 reports of “suicidal subjects” on the bridges.
Of those, 22 persons “were ‘talked down’ and did not actually jump,” said Lt. Angela M. Deneault. “Those people were transported to Newport Hospital.”
“Four people were alive when they were rescued from the water after jumping. It is unknown whether they died subsequently from their injuries. Seven people were confirmed dead when they were recovered from the water. In nine cases there was no confirmation either way.”
Suicide records for Jamestown Bridge kept by North Kingstown police
From Jan. 1, 2004, to Dec. 20, 2018
Five subjects made threats to jump but did not jump.
Three subjects jumped and were deceased.
Two subjects jumped, no body recovered.
Suicide records for Mount Hope Bridge kept by Bristol police
From Dec. 24, 2013, through Dec. 19, 2018.
Approximately 60 calls “for persons attempting to commit suicide on the bridge or intending to hurt themselves, and they were intervened with before reaching the bridge and transported to the hospital for evaluation and treatment,” said Lt. Steve St. Pierre. “There were 10 additional calls for persons who completed suicide and ended their lives by jumping off the bridge, and their bodies were recovered.”
Suicide records for Mount Hope Bridge kept by Portsmouth police
Jan. 1, 2008, to Dec. 31, 2015:
Two successful attempts, one attempt in which the person lived.
Jan. 1, 2016, to Dec. 28, 2018:
One successful attempt, one attempt in which the person lived.