Can Disneyland Do More to Help Prevent Suicide?

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Disney100 banner with Sleeping Beauty Castle in the background at Disneyland Resort

Credit: Disney

With two tragic incidents occurring in less than six months, could Disneyland Resort do more to help prevent suicide?

Disneyland Resort welcomes millions of families, friends, and fans yearly, eager to, in Walt Disney’s words, “relieve fond memories of the past and […] savor the challenge and promise of the future” at the Happiest Place on Earth. And while Disney adults are strongly criticized online due to their love for Disneyland Resort — or their favorite Disney Park — it’s no wonder why millions think of Disneyland as a safe place to be themselves and make magical memories, with beloved attractions, breathtaking entertainment offerings, heartwarming character interactions, and more.

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park with Disney100 celebration decorations
Credit: Disneyland Resort

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However, Disneyland Resort has faced two tragic incidents since December, with a 50-year-old man jumping from the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure on December 3; and a 46-year-old woman jumping — or falling — from the same parking structure on February 18. The latter was the fifth suicide reported at the Disneyland Resort parking structure since 2010, per an Orange County Register report.

The Mickey & Friends Parking Structure has six levels with 10,000 spaces and was the world’s largest parking structure when it opened at Disneyland in 2000. In 2019, the adjacent Pixar Pals Parking Structure opened with 5,500 additional spaces.

With over 47,000 deaths by suicide each year in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — with approximately 2% of suicides involving people who jump or fall to their deaths — is there more that Disney could do to prevent suicides?

Mickey & Friends parking structure at Disneyland Resort
Credit: Mark Eades, Orange County Register

Related: Guests Prove Disney World Has Healing Powers

The Orange County Register shared five actions the Southern California theme park could introduce to deter suicides at the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure, according to suicide prevention experts and parking organizations.

1) Increase security patrols

According to the International Parking and Mobility Institute, most suicides by jumping from parking structures occurred when the facilities were open to the public and with routine patrols in the area. Based on this, increasing the number and frequency of security patrols could help spot and stop persons attempting suicide before jumping.

2) Watch for signs of distress

While security officers can’t be everywhere at all times, technology provides an opportunity to alert them of potentially dangerous activities. Closed-circuit television camera coverage and motion-activated cameras at key locations could help spot persons displaying suspicious behavior, giving security staff time to intervene.

The IPMI manual recommends establishing a zero-tolerance policy preventing anyone from loitering on the roof of a garage who is not coming or going from a vehicle.

Pixar Pals Parking Disneyland
Credit: Disney

3) Display suicide hotline signs

While opinions differ among suicide prevention experts about the effectiveness of warning signs at high-profile locations, signs can be placed in the garages at high-probability locations, providing resources like crisis hotlines, intervention services, and suicide prevention counseling.

The signs should be clear, simple, include a call to action, provide a single resource and promise to listen, according to the IPMI manual.

4) Install physical barriers

According to the IPMI manual, fencing, screening, grating, glass, cabling, and netting can help prevent suicide at parking garages.

Landscaping like bushes, grass and trees can be planted around the garage perimeter to block landing areas. Awnings can serve as similar deterrents over large concrete areas.

A large building
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Parks Linked to Psychological Illness

5) Provide staff training

According to the IPMI manual, garage staff should be trained on how to react if they encounter a potentially suicidal person and how to respond following a suicide attempt, aiming to provide training on how to prevent future attempts and help employees cope with the trauma of witnessing a suicide.

While there have been no official announcements of additional safety and security measures being introduced at the Southern California theme park, Disneyland Cast Members and security personnel always keep Guests’ safety as a top priority. “ We do not broadly discuss the specifics of our security procedures to avoid compromising their effectiveness,” states Disneyland on its official website.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health matters, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 on your phone or by visiting 988lifeline.org.

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