Each year somewhere in the region of a million people take their own life. The only consolation to this tragic figure is that the vast majority who attempt suicide do not succeed.
Statistically the number of deaths at these locations is fairly miniscule compared to the overall figure. Nearly all the suicide spots below involve jumping from a height, whereas the most common methods are hanging, pesticide poisoning or shooting. Most of the spots listed below are as deadly as they are dramatic with only one having a survival rate higher than a few percent.
Why people are drawn to these so-called popular suicide spots is the subject of some debate but it appears to be a different type of suicide to those who simply take a bottle full of pills and go to bed. The suicides at the locations below can sometimes be seen as a final statement and will often draw more attention.
10. Mount Mihara, Japan
We’ll start of the list with the nation best known for its suicidal tendencies, Japan.
Mount Mihara is an active volcano situated on the small island of Izu Ōshima around 100 km (60 miles) south of Tokyo. The island and in particular Mt Mihara feature prominently in Japanese culture; the volcano was where Godzilla was entombed by the Japanese government in “The Return of Godzilla“. It also features in the 1998 movie, “Ring” where the main character’s mother throws herself into the crater.
Whilst that was fiction it is based on the macabre history of Mount Mihara. Dubbed “Suicide Island” Izu Ōshima became the final destination of choice for despondent lovers. It is said that what went on to become an epidemic of suicides was begun by a 21-year old student, Kiyoko Matsumoto. She threw herself into the fiery crater as she couldn’t bear not being able to be with the love of her life, another female student.
That year Mt Mihara became the suicide spot of choice with some citing a figure of over 900 people throwing themselves into the volcano. Such was the popularity that the Tokyo Bay Steamship Company laid on extra ferries.
In the following years the suicides continued, although not quite at the same rate. The volcano was the place to commit shinjuu – a mutual suicide pact between lovers.
The authorities finally stepped in to end the suicides at Mt Mihara by increasing security and preventing people from buying one-way tickets to the island. Or so the story goes…
9. Bosphorus Bridge, Istanbul, Turkey
Also known as the First Bridge this 1 miles (1.6km) long bridge joins the two continents of Asia and Europe. The suspension bridge rises 210ft (64m) above the waters Bosphorus Strait below. As such it is a fairly effective suicide spot although there is still no guarantee – one study calculated that there is statistically a 3% chance of surviving the fall.
The bridge was opened in 1973 to much fanfare although it wasn’t long before the first suicides. In an effort to stop these the authorities made it illegal for people to access or cross the bridge by foot. It seems that this didn’t resolve the problem as since then the majority of jumpers arrived at the bridge by taxi. I can only imagine they asked to be dropped off halfway across the bridge, whether they paid their final fare or not is another question.
Figures on how many people have killed themselves jumping from this bridge are hard to come by although they certainly number in the hundreds.
8. New York Skyline
If there is one thing New York City is famous for it is very tall buildings. Nowhere in the world is there quite such a concentration of skyscrapers and many have been there for the best part of a century now.
It seems that this point has not been lost on NYC’s residents who want to end it all. Compared to other U.S. cities the percentage of deaths by jumping is much higher here, around 10 times higher in fact. Committing suicide by jumping from a height is actually one of the most common methods in New York accounting for nearly 20% of all suicides. In the 30 years up until 2008 over 5,000 people threw themselves off the tall buildings and bridges of New York City.
There is one simple explanation for why the rate of jumping is so high; basically a person with suicidal intentions is going to use whatever means are available to them at the time. Ergo, if you are surrounded by some of the world’s tallest structures.
Of all the spots to jump from in the city it is probably the Empire State Building that has gained the greatest notoriety. Standing at over 1000ft (300m) tall the 86th floor observation deck is not completely closed in like those of most modern skyscrapers. That said there is a high fence designed precisely to prevent people from leaping. However, over the years nearly 40 people have leapt to their deaths from the Empire State Building.
The good news though is that New York has around half the national average suicide rate.
7. Beachy Head, England
The iconic white cliffs of England’s South Coast reach their apex at Beachy Head in Sussex. A notable landmark both from the land and sea these sheer chalk cliffs rise over 500ft (160m) above the sea and rocks below.
The name Beach Head comes from the French “Beauchef” meaning “beautiful headland”, and perhaps it is this stark, deadly beauty which has made the cliffs here one of the world’s most notorious suicide spots. It is reckoned that about 20 people a year take their lives by jumping from Beachy Head and most of those are believed to have travelled considerable distances to do so, such is the macabre draw of the cliffs.
People have killed themselves here by both jumping and driving cars over the edge. However, the saddest case I have heard of was that of a married couple, Neil and Kazumi Puttick, who killed themselves in a suicide pact at Beachy Head in 2009. The pair couldn’t face going on without their disabled five-year-old son Sam, who had died from meningitis. After driving to Beachy Head they put their child’s body in a rucksack and wearing it leapt from the cliffs together leaving behind a bag of toys on the clifftop.
Over recent years the number of suicides at the Head have been reduced. This is largely due to the chaplaincy team that often patrol the cliffs ready to try to talk anyone down. Such is the reputation of Beachy Head that many locals keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour and some claim they have a sixth sense about potential jumpers.
6. Niagara Falls, USA / Canada
The world famous Niagara Falls lie on the border between the USA and Canada. Both incredibly powerful and dropping in excess of 165 feet (50m) there is very little chance of anyone going over the falls surviving.
Or so you would think… there have actually been quite a few people who have lived to tell the tale of going over the Niagara Falls. Some went accidentally as was the case of 7 -year-old Roger Woodward.
Others went intentionally but without wanting to die. These include the first person to ride a barrel over the falls, the then 63 year old Annie Edson Taylor. After being recovered from downstream Taylor was quoted as saying “No one ought ever do that again“.
Unfortunately they did, with most expressing no interest in surviving, although a handful have over the years. So how many people have committed suicide at Niagara Falls? Between 1856 and 1995 there were 2,780 confirmed suicides and the Horseshoe Falls still seems to be on plenty of people’s final bucket list. Current figures suggest there are still in the region of 25 suicides at the falls each year.