Cornell gorge suicides

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Cornell's Thurston Avenue Bridge in 2009
The same bridge in 2018, after installation of suicide nets

The Cornell gorge suicides were a phenomenon of suicides at Cornell University in the 1970s, the 1990s and during the 2009/2010 school year, with the suicide method being jumping from the bridges into the gorges.


An investigation by Cornell University alumnus Rob Fishman, writing in The Huffington Post, found that multiple suicides had occurred in the 1970s and 1990s.[1] He reported that in "May of 1979, the university approved plans to add six-and-a-half foot metal bars to the already three-foot walls over the Collegetown Bridge."[1] In "1994, ...a fifth student died in the gorges in the span of three years."[1]

Cornell posted "security guards on all of the bridges that cross Cornell's gorges, and extended the hours of several" campus counseling lines.[2]" The half-dozen suicides in the 2009–2010 academic year marked the first instances of student suicides at Cornell since 2005. Stepped-up efforts to help students with mental health issues that began in 2002 and intensified after David J. Skorton became Cornell's president in 2007 are "at least anecdotally ... helping people," said Simeon Moss, a university spokesman."[2] New fences were set up following the 2010 gorge suicides.[3] Cornell indicated that it planned to set up nets on five of the university's bridges, which will extend out 15 feet.[3] Installation of the nets began in May 2013 and were completed over the summer.[4] Between 1990 and 2010, 27 people, including fifteen Cornell students as well as others, had killed themselves from bridge-jumping in Ithaca.[3]

The first survivor off of the infamous Thurston Avenue bridge from main campus toward North Campus (near the architecture buildings) was on the night of October 21, 1991.[5] The next day, The Cornell Daily Sun (the student newspaper) named the student: Derek McCarthy. "Police investigators said McCarthy is the first person known to have survived the 125-foot plunge to the bottom of the gorge from that particular bridge."[6] Having recovered sufficiently from his injuries, Derek McCarthy returned to Cornell in May 1992 and completed his undergraduate degree in December 1992.

These deaths, university officials have "long been quick to assert, don't mean that suicides are more common at Cornell than at other colleges."[2] According to The Huffington Post, statistically when compared to other colleges, Cornell does not have an above-average suicide rate. The misperception of a high suicide rate has been attributed by some to the public nature of suicides in the gorges.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Fishman, Rob (December 16, 2010). "Cornell Suicides: Do Ithaca's Gorges Invite Jumpers?". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Does 6 deaths in 6 months make Cornell 'suicide school'? -
  3. ^ a b c "Cornell Suicides: Nets To Cover Gorges Around School's Campus". The Huffington Post. August 20, 2012. Retrieved October 24, 2014.
  4. ^ "Means restriction nets in place, Cornell takes down bridge fences after three years". Retrieved 2016-03-10.
  5. ^ "Student Flown to Hospital Following Suicide Attempt". [The Cornell Daily Sun, October 22, 1991 front page headline]
  6. ^ The Cornell Daily Sun, October 23, 1991 front page article "Student Still in Hospital After Attempted Suicide"