Suicide Line On Skyway Bridge Disconnected

“ST. PETERSBURG, FL – A reduction in county budget in Pinellas County, Florida, has led to the county’s decision to remove the phone line dedicated to reducing possible suicides located at the highest point on the Skyway Bridge. The decision to cancel the phone service has caused uproar amongst several self-help groups and charities throughout the greater Tampa Bay area, claiming that Pinellas County has no regard for human life.

The phone line was originally placed on the 150-foot tall bridge to offer verbal support to people contemplating suicide, in hope of talking people out of jumping to their deaths. The massive modern marvel of architectural design that connects the Bradenton and Sarasota area to southern St. Petersburg and greater Tampa Bay has become a symbol of Tampa Bay since its reconstruction in 1982, as well as a hot spot for those who wish to end it all by means of a 150-foot free fall swan dive.

“”Their decision is shocking, to say the least,”” Frances Gehry, the managing director of the Help Endures Life Path (HELP) facility in St. Petersburg. ‘We are going to do whatever we can to fight to keep the phone there.’

Since the bridge’s construction in 1982, over 1500 incidents of suicide have occurred from the bridge’s peak. Though several incidents have occurred, overall numbers of suicide deaths have fallen to only 15 in 2004, 11 in 2005, and only two this year. The decline in suicide risk played a large role in the county’s decision to remove the service, according to Pinellas County Commissioner Ronnie E. Duncan.

’At one point, the phone line was a good idea,’ Duncan said to correspondent Arthur Rocks. ‘It has gotten to the point where both my colleagues and I cannot continue to provide funding for just a few depressed individuals. There are more pressing needs that need funding, like installing more parking meters at Clearwater Beach, for example.’

Both Gehry and other directors of help centers are joining together to make a push to keep the phone line in tact.

’We are rounding up a number of our most helpless patients to help the cause,’ Gehry told correspondent Porcious Crank. ‘Our plan is to send out a dozen or so of very suicidal people every week to jump off the bridge.’ Gehry went on, ‘These will be patients who really want to die, and those who’ve attempted to commit suicide on several instances in the past. If they kill themselves by leaping from the Skyway, their deaths will help others in the long run. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, and these hopeless, suicidal people realize that.’

Hank Johnston, the operator on the other end of the suicide line, offered a different viewpoint. ‘I’m sick of hearing all this jabber. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard ‘the walls are closin’ in’ and ‘life is so hard.’ People just need to shut their flap holes and jump like a man.’

’I am pissed that I’m losing my job, and the County can go fuck themselves for that,’ Johnston said before slicing a parking meter in half with a chain saw outside of the St. Petersburg County Courthouse.

Pinellas County officials indicated to just before press time that even if the phone line gets disconnected, there are plans to install a pay phone on the bridge. According to county officials, when a suicide patient inserts a coin makes a phone call, the phone will generate a random seven-digit phone number combination from the Verizon database of the 727 area code. The call will be randomly connected with any activated telephone line within the area, and civilians and business will be responsible for talking to suicidal people on the verge of jumping from the bridge.

All of the phone lines for Pinellas County government have been removed from the database, due to what county officials call, ‘a compromising of interests.’



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