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The bridge between suicide and life | Kevin Briggs

The bridge between suicide and life | Kevin Briggs

I recently retired from the California Highway Patrol after 23 years of service. The majority of those 23 years was spent patrolling the southern end of Marin County, which includes the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge is an iconic structure, known worldwide for its beautiful views of San Francisco, the Pacific Ocean, and its inspiring architecture. Unfortunately, it is also a magnet for suicide, being one of the most utilized sites in the world. The Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937. Joseph Strauss, chief engineer
in charge of building the bridge, was quoted as saying, “The bridge is practically suicide-proof. Suicide from the bridge is neither practical nor probable.” But since its opening, over 1,600 people have leapt to their death from that bridge. Some believe that traveling between the two towers will lead you to another dimension — this bridge has been romanticized as such — that the fall from that frees you from all your worries and grief, and the waters below will cleanse your soul. But let me tell you what actually occurs when the bridge is used as a means of suicide. After a free fall of four to five seconds, the body strikes the water at about 75 miles an hour. That impact shatters bones, some of which then puncture vital organs. Most die on impact. Those that don’t generally flail in the water helplessly, and then drown. I don’t think that those who contemplate this method of suicide realize how grisly a death that they will face. This is the cord. Except for around the two towers, there is 32 inches of steel paralleling the bridge. This is where most folks stand before taking their lives. I can tell you from experience that once the person is on that cord, and at their darkest time, it is very difficult to bring them back. I took this photo last year as this young woman spoke to an officer contemplating her life. I want to tell you very happily that we were successful that day in getting her back over the rail. When I first began working on the bridge, we had no formal training. You struggled to funnel your
way through these calls. This was not only a disservice to those contemplating suicide, but to the officers as well. We’ve come a long, long way since then. Now, veteran officers and psychologists train new officers. This is Jason Garber. I met Jason on July 22 of last year when I get received a call of a possible suicidal subject sitting on the cord near midspan. I responded, and when I arrived, I observed Jason speaking to a Golden Gate Bridge officer. Jason was just 32 years old and had flown out here from New Jersey. As a matter of fact, he had flown out here on two other occasions from New Jersey to attempt suicide on this bridge. After about an hour of speaking with Jason, he asked us if we knew the story of Pandora’s box. Recalling your Greek mythology, Zeus created Pandora, and sent her down to Earth with a box, and told her, “Never, ever open that box.” Well one day, curiosity got the better of Pandora, and she did open the box. Out flew plagues, sorrows, and all sorts of evils against man. The only good thing in the box was hope. Jason then asked us, “What happens when you open the box and hope isn’t there?” He paused a few moments, leaned to his right, and was gone. This kind, intelligent young man from New Jersey had just committed suicide. I spoke with Jason’s parents that evening, and I suppose that, when I was speaking with them, that I didn’t sound as if I was doing very well, because that very next day, their family rabbi called to check on me. Jason’s parents had asked him to do so. The collateral damage of suicide affects so many people. I pose these questions to you: What would you do if your family member, friend or loved one was suicidal? What would you say? Would you know what to say? In my experience, it’s not just the talking that you do, but the listening. Listen to understand. Don’t argue, blame, or tell the person you know how they feel, because you probably don’t. By just being there, you may just be the turning point that they need. If you think someone is suicidal, don’t be afraid to confront
them and ask the question. One way of asking them the question is like this: “Others in similar circumstances have thought about ending their life; have you had these thoughts?” Confronting the person head-on may just save their life and
be the turning point for them. Some other signs to look for: hopelessness, believing that things are terrible and never going to get better; helplessness, believing that there is nothing that you can do about it; recent social withdrawal; and a loss of interest in life. I came up with this talk just a couple of days ago, and I received an email from a lady that I’d like to read you her letter. She lost her son on January 19 of this year, and she wrote this me this email just a couple of days ago, and it’s with her permission and blessing that I read this to you. “Hi, Kevin. I imagine you’re at the TED Conference. That must be quite the experience to be there. I’m thinking I should go walk
the bridge this weekend. Just wanted to drop you a note. Hope you get the word out to many people and they go home talking about it to their friends who tell their friends, etc. I’m still pretty numb, but noticing more moments of really realizing Mike isn’t coming home. Mike was driving from Petaluma to San Francisco to watch the 49ers game with his father on January 19. He never made it there. I called Petaluma police and reported him missing that evening. The next morning, two officers came to my home and reported that Mike’s car was down at the bridge. A witness had observed him jumping off the bridge at 1:58 p.m. the previous day. Thanks so much for standing up for those who may be only temporarily too weak to stand for themselves. Who hasn’t been low before without suffering from a true mental illness? It shouldn’t be so easy to end it. My prayers are with you for your fight. The GGB, Golden Gate Bridge, is supposed to be a passage across our beautiful bay, not a graveyard. Good luck this week. Vicky.” I can’t imagine the courage it takes for her to go down to that bridge and walk the path that her son took that day, and also the courage just to carry on. I’d like to introduce you to a man I refer to as hope and courage. On March 11 of 2005, I responded to a radio call of a possible suicidal subject on the bridge sidewalk near the north tower. I rode my motorcycle down the sidewalk and observed this man, Kevin Berthia, standing on the sidewalk. When he saw me, he immediately traversed that pedestrian rail, and stood on that small pipe which goes around the tower. For the next hour and a half, I listened as Kevin spoke about his depression and hopelessness. Kevin decided on his own that day to come back over that rail and give life another chance. When Kevin came back over, I congratulated him. “This is a new beginning, a new life.” But I asked him, “What was it that made you come back and give hope and life another chance?” And you know what he told me? He said, “You listened. You let me speak, and you just listened.” Shortly after this incident, I received a letter from Kevin’s mother, and I have that letter with me, and I’d like to read it to you. “Dear Mr. Briggs, Nothing will erase the events of March 11, but you are one of the reasons Kevin is still with us. I truly believe Kevin was crying out for help. He has been diagnosed with a mental illness for which he has been properly medicated. I adopted Kevin when he was only six months old, completely unaware of any hereditary traits, but, thank God, now we know. Kevin is straight, as he says. We truly thank God for you. Sincerely indebted to you, Narvella Berthia.” And on the bottom she writes, “P.S. When I visited San Francisco
General Hospital that evening, you were listed as the patient. Boy, did I have to straighten that one out.” Today, Kevin is a loving father and contributing member of society. He speaks openly about the events that day and his depression in the hopes that his story will inspire others. Suicide is not just something
I’ve encountered on the job. It’s personal. My grandfather committed suicide by poisoning. That act, although ending his own pain, robbed me from ever getting to know him. This is what suicide does. For most suicidal folks, or those contemplating suicide, they wouldn’t think of hurting another person. They just want their own pain to end. Typically, this is accomplished in just three ways: sleep, drugs or alcohol, or death. In my career, I’ve responded to and been involved in hundreds of mental illness and suicide calls around the bridge. Of those incidents I’ve been directly involved with, I’ve only lost two, but that’s two too many. One was Jason. The other was a man I spoke to for about an hour. During that time, he shook my hand on three occasions. On that final handshake, he looked at me, and he said, “Kevin, I’m sorry, but I have to go.” And he leapt. Horrible, absolutely horrible. I do want to tell you, though, the vast majority of folks that we do get to contact on that bridge do not commit suicide. Additionally, that very few who have jumped off the bridge and lived and can talk about it, that one to two percent, most of those folks have said that the second that they let go of that rail, they knew that they had made a mistake and they wanted to live. I tell people, the bridge not only connects Marin to San Francisco, but people together also. That connection, or bridge that we make, is something that each and every one of us should strive to do. Suicide is preventable. There is help. There is hope. Thank you very much. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “The bridge between suicide and life | Kevin Briggs”

  1. They label suicidal people as having "mental illness". Maybe. I think it's more just normal, for a person with.a soul to recognize those surrounding have none. Or certainly act that way. Removing oneself is much more courageous than being killed by soulless people around them. No one stepped up BEFORE the suicide; but judge afterwards. Same as they always do.

  2. I tried to commit suicide last 31 December. Cops came, they were awful…I have no regrets…I'll be more discreet next time..

  3. Why is life like this??? I don't see any hope anywhere either. Even if it is there, you have to witness it's existence for it to be of any use and I NEVER see any. Not for me anyway. And that is the part that I don't understand.

  4. That's why life pisses me off. You literally have to jump off of a bridge with the intent of ending your life in order to realize that you want to live. I mean really? 🤔😕🙁

  5. I like the part when he said about suicidal folks do not want to inflict pain to others they just want their pain to end.


  6. To everyone saying my family is the only thing that keeps me going hang on, even if you have a family member that cares. My parents hate me. My mom abused me and still regrets not aborting me. Family is important. And it's okay to talk about life with them. Unless they don't care. Then just find someone who does care… Okay, on with the day the Lord has made. Let's rejoice and be glad in it. Peace.

  7. In my city the powers that be decided to put nets on all the bridges. Nets don't save people …people save people from suicide.

  8. Hi, my name is Corey, I've been trying to deal with depression and suicide ever since I was 14 years old and I'm 27 now and the only reason why I'm still here today is because of family and friends but what happens when that isn't enough anymore, I'm at that stage now, I'm tired of living life for other people I tried to end it all a few times this year but it just seems like it's not my time yet, I want to live for my self I want to have courage walking down the street without any thought of just jumping into traffic or jumping off high bridges, I'm tired and scared of what I'm going to put my friends and family through if I did die. Haven't you or someone you know ever say they wish they had the opportunity to tell someone something but it was too late or just to help them, well this is my way of asking for others help in getting better. So I'm asking anything you can give will help me afford the professional help I need, if you dnt do it for me then just please think if you have a loved one, I'm not doing this for me I'm doing it for the people that love me and I just hate imagining them going thro any kind stress if I died, so just imagine you or your family going thro hard times and  just a little professional help could possibly help them see life in a diffrent way, please help me, this is my last cry for help please help me afford professional help please .

  9. I had a friend who was in jail so many times, his family didn't love him, everyone at my school made fun of him because he was getting in trouble and getting into fights. Everyone wanted him to leave the school. But I loved him because no one else would. I often felt suicidal, even now, so I know exactly how my friend felt. He got expelled a year after he went to my school, so I dont know how he's doing, hopefully well. "Give love to people who deserve it the least because they need it the most." -Aaron Stark

  10. Been wanting to kill myself for two years ever since the woman I loved was murdered. And now people just think I'm crazy. Wish she was alive. Wish I was dead. #Serenaleegarcia

  11. we need to understand that death is not what we think its not to be afraid of its only the death of our physical bodies we are gods

  12. I have suffer from depression I have attempted to kill myself twice I have no support network to help me from my family suicide runs in my family I have lost a sister to it
    I just lost my job after 4 years an I am struggling to stay positive but with no help from family
    My physical an mental health is failing I feel my demands coming out again

  13. Death is natural. We should be able to die when we want to…the government acts like it's a crime to be hurt and broken by living in this corrupt, imperfect world. If they would let us go then many ppl would go to a doctor to help end there lives, instead of taking there own lives by themselves.

  14. Kevin Briggs, you are a good man, I hope your goodness brings you much joy in life and you remember all the lives you saved and only of the angels in heaven you couldn't help.


  16. The thing is- you don’t get a always chance to talk to someone who is suicidal- because you don’t know. Oftentimes, no one knows- or has any reason to think- someone is suicidal. It can happen in just a few hours of intense hopelessness… to those who have lost a someone they love to suicide, do not blame yourself. There is nothing you could have done. Don’t complicate your grief by believing that you somehow failed this person. Please.

  17. Why he lying? People will only regret not dying when they never really wanted to in the first place. Other people guilt them into thinking that way. Thats why I would never tell anyone of my mission. No one is ever going to tell me to continue suffering because they can't handle me making a choice about my own life. Keep your indoctrination and shove it.

  18. I had spine injury and soon i will maybe be paralyzed, and i have fucked up nerves in my spine and i have horrible headaches 24hours, its so painful, and im so scared, im so anxious and depressed, i feel pain in my stomach and heart all the time, i cannot live anymore in this body, GOD please help me, im thinking about suicide all the time but i dont wanna do it because i dont wanna live my father alone. I would love to live but not in this body, i want healthy body. This body is just giving me suffering. Anyone has similar situation and wants to die because of health issues?

  19. Sleep, drugs and death.

    Feels like a good title for a biography..

    I think a lot about recording every detail of my life or a specific event that I experienced, part of me thinks it may be therapeutic and help me feel better, but another part of me fears that once I tell my story and I write everything I can remember about my life, that I will finally feel like I have nothing left and that my story is now written/complete and I fear I'll feel more encouraged to leaving it all behind.

  20. "The weak breeze whispers nothing
    The water screams sublime
    His feet shift, teeter-totter
    Deep breath, stand back, it’s time
    Toes untouch the overpass
    Soon he’s water bound
    Eyes locked shut but peek to see
    The view from halfway down
    A little wind, a summer sun
    A river rich and regal
    A flood of fond endorphins
    Brings a calm that knows no equal
    You’re flying now
    You see things much more clear than from the ground
    It’s all okay, it would be
    Were you not now halfway down
    Thrash to break from gravity
    What now could slow the drop
    All I’d give for toes to touch
    The safety back at top
    But this is it, the deed is done
    Silence drowns the sound
    Before I leaped I should’ve seen
    The view from halfway down
    I really should’ve thought about
    The view from halfway down
    I wish I could’ve known about
    The view from halfway down"
    ~ Alison Tafel

  21. my family disowned me, and got an AVO against me so I wouldnt come to the church.
    thats what the Morris Family of St Lukes, Wallsend Newcastle do.

    Thats what they are .
    I live despit3 my family and a life of abuse physical and emotional.

    The only thing I have in life now, and it holds me, is to outlive that church and its congregation.

  22. I just want it to stop its been 5 years I'm 16 no kid should have to deal with depression at all let alone this fkn long, I'm tierd of this

  23. Death had forgot to take you with him and now it’s your task to go to the place you belong. That’s what you feel when suicidal

  24. Please help me my anxiety got me and its getting worse day by day. School isn't better too. Getting bullied and i wanna sucide. I am weak in heart and get broken quickly. I am sensitive please help me how i can prevent this.

  25. the pain is not nearly the worst part of it.. if u have been through this you can probably agree that the pain is still bearable.
    the worst part, the unbearable part is not feeling, not caring. not living anymore, barely existing. when there is no point in life. feeling just tired. not having a reason to be here. just floating through life, not able to feel anything but maybe a little pain, wasting your last seconds, not caring about anyone or anything. that’s not life.

    yes, the pain of depression hurts the most, of course, but it is bearable tho really hard and hurtful. but the numbness is the thing that really kills you, that you can’t recover from when gone too far..

  26. No intentional method of death is easy, 10 yrs depressed and suicidal but im still here because im afraid but my despair and pain already surpasses rock bottom. I can only imagine the pain of those who did it. Im just waiting for that situation where i can have that courage

  27. This video would make me want to jump too………..imagine………no God of Jesus………….no hope!!! I've been in jersey as a child near a waterfall………..I was five and saw all of someones clothes and watch…..No Jesus no life!

  28. 11:43 Imagine how selfish it is to say someone committing suicide robbed you from ever getting to know them. As if they should keep enduring their pain just so you can "get to know them".

  29. I know it sounds stupid but my dogs are the only reason I’m still alive ,I’m scared I don’t what’s gonna happen when their gone

  30. When u jump ur mind gets clear but then u realize that u wish u didn't jump and all ur regrets come falling towards you

  31. Some people simply don’t want to exist you don’t need to give the whole damn presentation about it. Respect their decision and let them R.I.P

  32. I dont want to suicide but my life is boring and i want to change my life drasticaly any way possible, even if its dangerous cuz idc if i die, any advice on what to do?

  33. Your argument holds merit if you have those things. If you have friends, if you have family, if you have people who notice you're gone. The last person I spoke with on a friendly person was 3 months ago. They're gone now. They're all gone. I'm completely irrelevant. So, in my case. Your argument is dead in the water.

    And second, not all suicides should be guised under this "mental illness" criteria. To be solved with medication. People are in pain for many reasons. Experiences, trauma, etc. To say it can be solved with some meds is insensitive.

  34. I can’t explain how impressed I am at the lack of robotic “dont do it”, “think of the people who love you”, “call suicide prevention” comments here. Nothing says “I don’t understand clinical depression” like those types of comments

  35. I don't mean to be different, but sometimes people end life because they can't comprehend the difference between expectations, what they have experianced from the world, or are just looking for a release from what society deems is "appropriate" behavior for most citizens.

    This only applies to United States citizens of course. Ask yourself though, what are you looking for in life? Are you looking for money, positions in your job, or to be left alone to think about everything I just said? Is anyone?

    Perhaps even one is looking for a partner, lover, or someone else. Are these thoughts put into question? Or, are they brushed aside like a passing moment of deep concern?

    When a person can experience joy from their own endeavors, something physical by hand, and not influenced by mass idealogy, except within those close to them. Then, can they experiance freedom.

    We don't like to talk about that though. It's too complicated, too much of a mind mess to ourselves, right?

  36. Good video mostly. However, he said at the beginning that suicidal people don't think about the gruesome death that awaits them. I assure you that's not true. Suicidal people absolutely do their research. People don't just randomly decide to kill themselves one day, they think about it a LOT.

  37. When people say "I didn't ask to be born".. I always say/think you are the love between your mom and dad..So you did ask to be born! Your the physical incarnation of the love they felt for each other !

  38. When people say "I didn't ask to be born".. I always say/think you are the love between your mom and dad..So you did ask to be born! Your the physical incarnation of the love they felt for each other ! You were the third party between your mom and dad!

  39. I've been suicidal. I didn't want death. I just needed everything in my head to *STOP*. My father committed suicide. He never found his way out unfortunately. He shot himself in the chest….noone knew how dark it had gotten for him. Losing someone to suicide is the worst loss ive been through. It still hurts, im still not over it and its been over 20yrs…

  40. I have never seen anything so confrontational. I am crying, but I am also listening to what he's saying and trying to take it all in.

  41. Hope distorts our judgment….impedes our acceptance of life as it is…..because we wish (hope) for better outcomes…so we reject the reality of it…..

  42. Suicide correlates with a brain microbe infection from undercooked infected meat or unwashed vegetables, called toxoplasma, a protozoa. Definitive host is cats. It will be 40 years before we evolve enough as humans for this knowledge to be acted upon or anything other than ignored. Part of the problem is we have no way of knocking it out aside from drilling a hole in the head and injecting a long needle. That woman standing on the bridge surely has that in her brain, that's all that's wrong with her. It has not been solved. She still goes through each day with a lousy feeling/atmosphere from thousands of parasites eating her brain matter.

  43. Imagine all of the people who feel like ending it getting together to form a company of some sort and produce something. Would be rather powerful I think.
    Anyway folks, it correlates with toxoplasma

  44. My depression is worse than having brain cancer.

    I beat brain cancer 10 years ago. Cancer left, depression and anxiety remained. I am 28 now, I haven't lost all hope, I would never kill myself in a million years because it would crush my family and I have a feeling my life will be great some day.

  45. Everyone should see this video, and everyone, everyone should read the comments below this video. They document the real pain of real persons, and must not be set aside.

  46. People care more about your physical health than your mental health even when they should know both are likely to kill you if something goes bad

  47. I am in a worst situation. I have all the symptoms of suicide you mentioned. But what I'm distraught about is dying. The worst day of my life was the day as a child when told by parents we were gonna die one day!. The best day of my life is supposed to be the day when Jesus(the bridge) can save it. I'm afraid he ain't in Pandora's box' neither..and will have to live the rest of my life in misery, since the early age of 5

  48. Do you ever wonder if you had a choice before being born to participate in this world or not? Or had the choice of a few selected parents? Sometimes weird concepts need answers the world is made of weird nature after all ….

  49. There is always someone, there is always someone who cares, a lot of friends have said they have no one while I’m standing there, I try to be exagérated with my response to that, I hug them and tell them over and over again there is someone, they say it’s annoying but I what them to know, and really know I’m there , a lot of times the problem and the sadness is to harsh to see the friends that care, but please, always know there is someone that cares.

  50. I just don't want to be me, why do I have to be me?, I don't want to think, I don't want to keep feeling like life is pointless, meaningless, with no direction or purpose. I'm like "why me? why I am me? how do normal people feel?".

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