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)

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

  1. You are an amazing speaker, wish someone with your clarity of mind and philosophy was in charge of the world….

  2. To everyone reading this please turn to Jesus He loves you and wants to save you from what you are going through,Only Jesus can truly heal, He is the God of miracles, The bible tells us in Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, i seen God do amazing things in my life and in the lifes of people i know, God saved someone i love from illness leading to death, There is nothing impossible to God, Its as simple as asking Him to show you He is there and if you really want to know He will answer you, i know this because it happened to me when i called out to Him

  3. To every one want's to end his life :
    take an advice from me , i've been suffering a very deep depression that had me to believe that suicide is the solution for my problems , but i remembered my mom and my dad i don't want them to be very sad for me , also i remembered my god Allah the one who saved me because i asked him sincerly to guide me and help me through though moments …
    believe me guys just ask god for help and he will guide you and believe me he will never let us down

  4. It's hard to listen to someone talk about suicidal people when they themselves haven't had that experience first hand. It almost sounds like a person explaining what a color looks like to someone who was born blind. You could keep reiterating "….sUiCide iS a pErMaNenT sOluTioN tO A teMpoRaRy prObLeM…" like a fucking parrot without realizing how pretentious you sound but you haven't a clue about how bad some people have it.

    There are far too many permanent problems out there that cannot be fixed despite your best efforts. Suicidal people are often not weak and selfish but far from it. They wish to end it all just so their pain doesn't become a part of someone else's. They deserve a fucking medal for that kind of selflessness where they keep choosing to live through their pain over killing themselves just so others might not be hurt!

    "What happens when you open the box and hope isn't there?" rings true on so many levels. If you are one of those selfless heroes, I adore you for your strength! you are the strongest and you inspire me to not end it all myself.

    I you ever want someone to talk to at your darkest moments, hit me up on Discord. My username is bigus-dickus#6517

    (I'm a big fan of the Monty Pythons, hence the weird username)

  5. Why do we need to encourage others to live? Who cares. I don’t need moral support. I need some fucking money. People can offer pats on the back but no fucking money. If it’s you and your life and money. Bitches will be like see ya, bye bye‼️

  6. While I'm not exactly suicidal, I think if I just didn't wake up tomorrow, that would be ok.
    I'm not making the difference I once was. I'm not important to people. I have no value to the community.

  7. Every morning I wake up I get mad because I'm still here. I suffer every minute of the day and night in. Chronic pain from a spine injury. I'm so tired of the pain

  8. If life flashes before your eyes then it's sad that as you are dying you see why you shouldn't have done it, but it's already too late, so as you see all that has been wasted you waste it, normally without realizing everything that you've given away not only to yourself but to the others you would see, but it's too late, because you were thinking irrationally, once you irrationally make a decision while you're making that decision you see how irrational it really was, but that's too bad, and too late, I guess when your dying not only do you see your life flash before your eyes, you also see your future, the future that could've been, it's funny how when you get to your most irrational moment of killing yourself, when you go through with it you are the most rational you'll ever be right after the decision is made, then you know how much as just been lost, all because of one decision.

  9. I believe suicide is sad and wrong for the young, but total opposite when you are older. Sometimes life is not worth living anymore, if you have already lived through the good years. Robin Williams comes to mind. He had an outstanding and fun life, but that came to an end. But people would want him to live on, when the rest of his days would've been filled with pain and misery. Why? So that family and friends can visit with him. Why live for others. I'm 57 and have had a stress free fun life but that is over now. Health problems now make any enjoyment impossible, so I am planning my end soon. I just have a few loose ends to tie up, but I am ready to die on my terms. Life is for the young, being old sucks.

  10. This really touched me in so many ways. I'm 40 and have struggled with suicidal thoughts since I was 7. I keep going for my children although the thoughts are always there somewhere deep in the back of my head. I was diagnosed as manic depressive as a child and luckily those thoughts have somewhat faded with time. Thank you so much for this. Although we've never met, hearing you speak of this has helped more than you will ever know. I will continue to keep going, thank you 💖

  11. Not all suicide is a result of mental illness as many suggest. Some lives are so horrific and full of pain a person would be insane NOT to kill themselves. Things do not always get better, sometimes they get worse. Not everyone has family to leave behind. Never tell a person they are selfish or that it is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Those are brainless clichés. You may just help them to kill themselves. The best thing is to listen and be there before they reach the bridge.

  12. When Pandora’s box has been opened and hope isn’t there you search everywhere, until you find it, maybe you’ll find it in love, in self care, in starting a new hobby that you’ll eventually love, in reflecting on your past and learning from it, growing as a person…

    I really recommend watching Jordan Peterson’s self help videos on his YouTube channel, really don’t know where I’d be without him..

  13. I wrote a paper in high school about how death works on a social cycle. Someone dying can lead to an increase in others death drive.

  14. i want to turn on the gas without turning on any ignition. That way i can breathe it in with no harmful flames.

  15. No friends
    No one listens
    No relationship ever
    Old and getting old
    Tired
    Bored
    Not interested in anything.cutting to feel something.Sleeping a lot.What’s the point of living when you don’t have the same things as a normal person: love, companionships, children, fun ect
    .Feeling Stuck in between, trap.
    My affection, compassion not being heard. contemplating over and over and over for more than 18 years of be lonesome. To this point now I’m numb.
    I just want to experience what others have, but I’m reaching my end.

  16. If anyone needs a friend or someone to talk to, I'm here. I love and care about yall and I want to help 💖

  17. Nobody wants to be around a depressed hopeless broken soul… all that bull crap with those singers and the helpline number song.total bull

  18. The pain one suffers before committing suicide is even more fucking horrific then the suicide itself. That mindset is the absolute darkest of dark.

  19. Something that really struck me was when he said that once people are over that rail and in their darkest hour hardly anything will bring them back over, and that's where it hurts the most, I feel like people dont understand a suicidal person until they themselves have been in that dark place where nothing can convince you life is worth living for.

  20. Suicide is a personal matter and no one should have the right to interfere in the commitment of the act. As long as they don't take anyone with them or hurt anyone else, it is all good.

  21. I mean to be real, “falling from the bridge” really does “free you from all your worries and grief”.

    Having a semi truck not watch where he was going and hits and drags your car for a mile at 70mph, ending the career you loved in a matter of seconds, and leaving you disabled. ✅
    Your only two children dead. ✅
    Husband died suddenly and unexpectedly from a pulmonary embolism. ✅
    Your favorite Grandfather committed suicide by shotgun. ✅
    Close to losing the home you own outright because you can’t pay your back taxes; and being terrified about what’s going to happen to you and your animals. ✅
    “Temporarily too weak to stand for themselves.” BUT have reached out to MANY friends and family. The one person, your own sister, who you DO TELL that you’re contemplating suicide, tell you that suicide is selfish. ✅
    Offering to fly a friend or family member to you in Florida (where you have no one), asking them to stay with you for 2 months to help you sell your belongings and house, and having them help you move, telling them you’ll give them $10k after you sell your house. (Btw, houses in your neighborhood are very desirable, and sell within days of listing. Many even before they’re listed!)

    So you tell me why someone would struggle with:
    Hopelessness. ✅
    Helplessness. ✅
    Recent social withdrawal. ✅
    And have a loss of interest in life?
    How would you feel???

    You tell me, where tf is this HOPE that everyone keeps talking about??? 🙄

    Now do you see how falling from the bridge really does free you from all your worries and grief??🥺

    P.S. Why should suicidal people give af about the “friends and family” left behind, when those same people didn’t give af about you when you repeatedly reached out to them?? 🤔🤔🤔🤔

  22. Thank you, Kevin Briggs. Your frank honesty was inspirational to me. Suicide for me has always offered a way out if things get just absolutely unbearable. I have to revise that now; I had selfishly been thoughtless about the effect on others.

  23. For everyone going through hard times, just remember that things will get better because Area 51 is soon to be raided and you will get awesome gadgets so hang on.

  24. I wake up every day sobbing for an hour. Then I just stare at the ceiling for another hour. There's no reason to even get up. I have nightmares about my abusive family- they caused my PTSD. I wake up with this empty, depressed feeling. Or I'll have good dreams. And then when I wake up and realize I'm back in this miserable life, I feel so hopeless. I can't do anything, I can't function at all. My brain is shutting down, I can't even think straight anymore. Every year gets worse and worse. I feel like driving my car off a cliff, my life is totally meaningless. My problems can't be solved, it's too late. I'm totally overwhelmed. Nothing's ever going to be better.

  25. Sometimes it's amazing how much you can do to reach out and how little people care to respond. Even those who claim they love you.

    Personally, it's very hard for me to confess my suicidal tendencies to anyone other than online friends, strangers or occasionally, those I've been in a relationship with. The exact words can't come out of my mouth if I'm talking to a parent, a family member, a doctor…etc. not just because it could send me to a hospital, but because of their reactions to every single other time they've ignored or shoved it off. They've seen me drop out of school, lose interest in things, they've seen me silently struggle through abuse, gain and lose unhealthy amounts of weight, they've seen my self inflicted cuts and scars, the sleepless nights, they've heard me talk about having no friends and all I've ever gotten back was silence. I can't blame anyone for not knowing how to perfectly respond to that, but you'd think someone who claims that they love you would TRY something. Anything. But you bring it up and all you get is a blank stare or a suggestion to "get out more"

    It gets to a point where you physically can't say that you want to kill yourself because you know the reaction would be no different. Even if it got a response, why would someone only care when it's gotten to that point, instead of being there to prevent it from getting that bad in the first place. Maybe that's just the people I'm surrounded with and was born into, because I've seen other families be extremely supportive of each other. It just makes it THAT much worse knowing that too, that you weren't lucky enough to have someone who truly cares about you in your life.

  26. To anyone here in the comments that's thinking of taking their own life. I'll listen. I'll try to help. Me and so many other people care. Please find a way to keep going. I know you can. It won't be easy but try. X

  27. Sometimes you just want someone to hear how much anguish were in. To feel our pain even for just a second. To understand the reason we became the way we did. Our fear. All without wanting anything from us. They are listening to us bc they want to.
    I’m a suicide survivor 🙏🏼💚

  28. What if you're like that man in the DIGNITOSS video, a fatal crippling disease getting worse day by day, he had them do it, they say it's such a 'cowardly act' ..

  29. “The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
    – David Foster Wallace

  30. What is UP GUYS & GIRLS. I want to share with you the good news.

    All of this pain, emptiness that you are experiencing right now can be removed, washed away.

    I am not talking about religion but having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I do not want you to believe me on my word, but try it out for yourself. If you are willing to humble yourself and pray to Jesus and seek Him with all of your heart He will show up and take all of your pain away, He will give you peace.

    That emptiness that you are having CANNOT be filled by the things of this world, only by Jesus!

    Jesus LOVES YOU so much that He died for you.

    I know that you the person reading this comment most likely we will never meet in real life BUT I want you to know that I LOVE you……. I really mean it!

    Even now as you read this comment Jesus is right beside you, waiting for you!!!

    Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart, what will you do?

  31. It was my 15th Birthday. I was having a huge party because this is an important age for my culture. Now, it wasn’t a Quinceañera, but it was the biggest birthday party I had ever had. One of my friends was on her phone 3/4 of the party with her boyfriend. About half way into the party my friend pulled me aside and told me her boyfriend was feeling really down and was contemplating suicide. I got on the phone with him, and listened to what he was saying. We talked and my stupid emotions got the best of me. I started to cry- no sob. I was sobbing and shaking, I was so afraid of what he was going to do. Then he hung up the phone. I called him over and over again until he answered. My friend and I got him the help he needs and he is doing a lot better now. But I will just say this, i had never felt fear the way I did that day.

  32. You're giving us a "talk" about the bridge between life and suicide, and all you can give us is 14 minutes? Really. That is utterly pathetic!

  33. i am not trying to end pain – i simply want others to hate me and to stop caring about me. i want others to realize i am poison to them and to stop fighting me on this. i want others to hate myself and to not mourn me when i die. i simply hate myself and want others to hate me also. i simply cannot understand, for example, when there are really good reasons we cannot visit each other, they always try to find things around those and refuse to accept life. i often hurt myself physically and psychologically – the opinions of others can be changed quite easily, such that i can, and do, make others hate me and not want to be with me – enabling my behavior and hopefully accepting, and not caring about, my suicide

  34. It's a sweet video and all but nothing has changed for me. Going through ECT-treatment next week for my depression since pills dont work. Oh boy may god be with me.

  35. I can handle close deaths. I've lost two friends and the most elders in my family.
    I still want to suicide.

  36. No one can truly understand nor comprehend a person's true pain. To be in so much pain, that person just wants to be with God in heaven rather than spend another day on this earth!

  37. You don't even know what you want because, in your eyes, you are unworthy of any consideration at all…………..it's something that you carry in your head all through your life , through all the self-medication, because your mind finally says " OK, justify your suicide to 'me" and you wonder if you have the reasons for your own suicide. Additionally, then I look forward to hearing about the death of a very few, but very specific, individuals because I want to be able to know that the world is a better place now without them……. and , I suppose, if you`ve lived as long as I have you begin to become cowardly and give up although I must admit my dogs give me reason to live…….!

  38. The comment section is filled with who come looking for help , there is so much sorrow and the world,how wrong it is in world that in 7 billion people walking on the face of earth ,a dying person cant find a shoulder to rely,cant we fill the emptiness between, cant we talk ,can't we love for which we are made for, it's just step between life and death ,its just a matter of question which side we take our step too. Let's be someone's hope ,give life a chance.

  39. You don't want to hurt anyone else but don't want to hurt anymore! After a few attempts I don't want to cause pain to others and that's why I won't for now

  40. when you watch a video about someone helping others through depression but you just end up rekindling your own depression.

  41. but what’s the point or trying or living when youre just empty on the inside? u no longer find joy in what u used to love. u no longer see the point of doing ur best. u no longer feel. ure living but ure lifeless. u wake up w a heavy chest, go to sleep w a heavy mind. everything is just black or grey. everything is dull. everyday is solemn. u dont feel loved neither do u want to provide love. what’s the point?

  42. my grandpa,two uncles killed themselves. we have no more males on that branch of my family.all three shot themselves. the story of how they did it,and the key was to not leave a mess.

  43. Start paying workers fair wage for fair work so we can see above water. Maybe we won't want to suicide anymore. Thanks.

  44. Exploitation like this makes me lose faith in the world I used to enjoy my existence in.

    To be or not to be.
    That is the question.

    Now to find the answer.

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