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Bridge over troubled discourse: the influence of the Golden Gate Bridge on community discourse and suicide

Chris Gerald Caulkins (Independent Researcher, Sumrith Solutions, LLC, Woodbury, Minnesota, U.S.A.)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 12 January 2015




The purpose of this paper is to examine the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB) as a work of art and the role of the bridge in shaping community identity and discourse. Particular attention is focussed on the discourse surrounding mental illness and suicide, which perpetuate the problem of suicides involving the bridge as a means and mechanism of death. An analysis of the person who attempts or completes suicide is also performed.


Multiple research articles, writings, and a cinematic production are drawn on to frame the argument in terms of Michel Foucault's adaption of Pantopticism Theory and Jacques Lacan's Mirror Theory, which includes the concepts of the Real, the Imaginary, and the Symbolic.


The GGB is a major factor in shaping the discourse on mental illness and suicide in the San Francisco community. The influences the GGB exerts combines with and exacerbates a culture of stigma, which perpetuates negative discourse and increases the risk of suicides in those already vulnerable.

Research limitations/implications

The research for this paper was performed at a distance and was conducted, with the exception of one personal communication, by literature search and application to theory. Ethnographic research would be a logical next step to study the phenomenon further.

Practical implications

Theory developed from this paper could be used in determining a relevant course of action for adding to existing suicide prevention efforts in the San Francisco Area and any other community with a prominent icon, such as the GGB, that may be exerting a negative influence on the suicide rates of that area.

Social implications

An awareness of how art, culture, and psychology interact would increase awareness of the creation of a stigmatized environment and perhaps precipitate a change in the underlying negative discourse.


This paper takes a fresh look at the phenomenon of violent death by suicide where a physical object/icon (the GGB) is used as a means to die. The particular theories and approach used to explain the interactions that intensify the suicide death rate have never been combined and interwoven in such an interdisciplinary way to seek an explanation.



The author would like to thank the faculty of the Liberal Studies Graduate Program at Metropolitan State University for their invaluable guidance and instruction on interdisciplinary research and writing.


Caulkins, C.G. (2015), "Bridge over troubled discourse: the influence of the Golden Gate Bridge on community discourse and suicide", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 47-56.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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