A California Highway Patrol officer for over 23 years, Kevin Briggs has been coined the “Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge,” as the officer has spent most of his time around the Golden Gate Bridge area helping save lives.
Back in 1994, Briggs was just starting out and was trained to tackle traffic incidents but never received training on how to deal with people contemplating suicide.
He did not know that his time on the bridge was a very pervasive issue in regards to suicide.
“There were four to six cases of suicidal folks on the bridge each and every month. And I had no idea about this, and I grew up in Marin County, which connects to San Francisco via that Golden Gate Bridge…I had no training to handle these types of situations.”
Briggs says in his first encounter with a suicidal person he “did about everything wrong that you could”.
“In the back of my mind I was thinking, ‘Am I responsible if she does jump? What happens here? I had no training in this. This is a really bad scene.’…I was afraid, I didn’t know how to handle that situation.”
Briggs shared how from the encounters that followed, he learned a lot.
“I think my approach right from the start was wrong. Just to walk up right to those folks and start talking with them. Now what I do is I stand back and I’ll just introduce myself. I’ll say ‘Hi I’m Kevin’ or ‘I’m Kevin with the Highway Patrol, is it okay, is it alright if I come up and speak with you for a bit?’ I want to get their permission and empower them.”
Kevin has since talked to over 200 people since then who have stood on the edge of the bridge.
Of those people, Kevin Berthia is one of them.
“He was very, very, very angry,” shared Briggs, “And he wanted nothing to do with me. And he kept yelling at me ‘Stay back! Stay back, if you come one step further I’m jumping!’ And he was very serious about this. In my mind, if I took one step further then he was gone.”
The two talked for over 90 minutes regarding the problems Berthia was facing in his life — Briggs saying that he only spoke for around four to five minutes.
“I asked him… ‘What happened here? What was the turning point in this? What did I do that helped this situation? And what did I do that wasn’t so good that hurt this situation?’ And all he told me was, ‘You listened. You let me speak, and you listened.’ And that’s all he was looking for and that’s all that many, many people are looking for is someone to listen.”
Briggs shared how he believes that those contemplating suicide do not want to hear the common adages like “You’ll get over it,” as well as, “It’s going to get better.”
“What I believe, personally, they want to hear is, ‘Yeah, it is tough’.”
“I try to explain to them, wow that sounds really tough. And normalize their situation. That’s a real big one, is to try to normalize their situation. You know, ‘Wow, what you’re going through is a whole lot of stuff and that’d be tough on anybody. I think anyone going through all that might be thinking about suicide’.”
“It takes a lot of courage to be over that rail. It takes a lot of courage. But it also takes a lot of courage to come back and face the reality that is with them right now. But there is a brighter side to this, and it can happen, and it might take a long time and a lot of work. But life is beautiful and, you know, it is worth living.”
Briggs shared how although he cannot fix any of the issues that people are wrestling with — it is vital to listen and try to understand what they are walking through.
Briggs retired from the California Highway Patrol in 2013 and currently works in suicide prevention.
NOW WATCH: Sweden Actually Turns It’s Garbage Into Energy | Save The World