For more than 20 years, Kevin Briggs has been preventing people from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge through compassionate conversations. The highway patrol officer wasn’t expecting this to be a regular part of his job, but he did his duty and protected the citizens of the city.
In 1994, Briggs started out in the California Highway Patrol. He received training in handling traffic incidents, but never received formal training in what he became known for: suicide prevention. Every month, Briggs says that there are four to six cases of suicide attempts on that bridge, and it shocked him because he never heard of so many incidents of people jumping off the bridge. Instead of patrolling traffic, Briggs would guide these people off the ledge and back to safe ground.
Briggs learned that the best way to approach the suicidal folks is to stand back and introduce himself: “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." After this, Briggs just listens to whatever the person wants or needs to say. He recounted that once a man spoke to him for 90 minutes about his problems, and Briggs just attentively listened. The key to getting them to rethink their decision is to validate their experiences and normalize their situation. Once they come off the ledge with his help, Briggs congratulates them and brings them to safety.
Briggs has been doing this for 23 years, and he retired as an officer in 2013. Since then, he’s been working in suicide prevention to help others learn from his mistake. Briggs has talked more than 200 people off of the ledge, but his skills came from learning from many mistakes. It’s all about patience, encouragement, and compassion.
He has saved many lives, so his title of the Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge is well-deserved. It wasn’t in his original job description to prevent these people from jumping, but he took it upon himself to make it his job. This guardian has not only saved many lives, but also helped people start new ones, prevented a lot of heartbreak, and taught others how to prevent suicide.