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)

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Comments

  1. My grandfather commited suicide when my father was only 6 years old. I never got to meet him, I never saw a picture of him and I don't even know why he did it. I am 16 years old and don't know how my grandfather looked.

    Stop making it a taboo it is important to talk openly about depression and suicide.

  2. Today, I tied a noose on my ceiling fan. After watching this I stopped and thought "how would this affect my loved ones?", I'm now at the ER with my boyfriend.

  3. The part ware he said if a loved one is having suicidal thoughts, then what you should do is listen… Really hit close to home for me…. I myself don't think I am suicidal… But I do wish to just peace out of existence and just take a break from life… But death is permanent so that isn't an option….

    And one time… I just brought up suicide in the car one day… And I didn't even said that I was suicidal… I just said I thought of the what-ifs…. And my mom flipped out and told me to never talk like that again…. And a couple days later… She starts saying how her own daughter would rather be dead than live… Which is not what I had said….

    If any parents who have children who are going through a tough time are reading this…. I understand that it's heartbreaking to hear that coming from the thing you love most in life's mouths'… But instead of shoving their problems under a rug and ignoring it…. Please just hear them out….

    Ps: I'm just some dumb kid who doesn't know anything about parenting… So don't take my advice as if I were a professional… Because I am far from it…. I'm just some child venting in the comments section of a video that made me think… So don't take what I say so literally!

    I hope whoever is reading this has a nice day… And I'm sorry if I made anyone upset with this comment…

    I'm going now bye bye…

  4. I'm grateful to have been the person my friends and brother came to when they had thoughts of suicide and self harm. But my brother had no way to contact me that last day, and all I wish for is the last time to talk to him. I want nothing more than to save him again.

  5. 4:30 – 4:40 I have no words!! Poor fellow felt hopeless & lost in this huge world. It's a massive issue with this due to the stigma against mental health issues, but slowly were starting to change this with our generationstion.

  6. Thank you for this message Mr. Briggs. It is well done, powerful and caring. Yes, we want our own pain to end. Another way my pain has ended was with effective skills therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder supported by appointments with a mental health clinician, psychiatrist, and my family doctor. I have a fantastic health team. I am open minded to owning my illness and managing my suicidal ideation. I am successful in advocating for myself and contribute this to my success in recovery thus far. Calgary, AB, Canada

  7. Today is July 22nd and its my birthday and the story about was on July 22nd
    I'm crying and I crying till idk why I am crying
    I don't really enjoy my birthday because it's the day my nightmare began

  8. You just want a fucking break from life for me it felt like i couldn’t have a moment of just complete silence you want a damn break and you end it for so much stress and negative thoughts to be relieved because your mentally incapable of handling it normally

  9. Is there a way to relieve oneself from the messed up world of today? How do we be free of all who thrives on the misfortunes and the suppression of others. This world is cruel. But it's OK, nothing last forever endure the suffering and enjoy the pain of living.

  10. So.. this video convinced me to finally call the Suicide Prevention Hotline… Sadly, I do not feel helped. I spilled my guts out, and all I got was "you shouldn't have had to go through that"… Then, they decided they needed to end the call with me… "Can we call back in a few hours"… I kept saying "I don't know what to do, or why to keep going on", and after hearing my abridged life story, apparently neither do they… So, where does one turn to after that? I have 4 hours till they call back… Hopefully they are looking over options or something, and not just "checking to see if you're alive"…

  11. nobody escapes here alive make the best of it and if its so bad just try and push and get through it, well you have to. you get out too early and you just have to come back again and learn or experience what you avoided….sometimes though i can understand it can get pretty fucked up…..

  12. A while back, I was walking along a beautiful N California city lake on a sunny Saturday. People were walking their dogs and strolling with their kids. A noisy farmers market was open. Just ahead of me on the path a man fell to his knees and started to sob uncontrollably. (It does not matter that he didn't;t appear 'homeless') ..but he didn't. He seemed to be about 25-30. I came up to him and just put my hand gently on his shoulder and asked, "How are you doing?'..and just listened. He said his wife was struggling with mental illness and had just left him and he was 'hopeless and afraid'. There was NOTHING I actually COULD DO or SAY except to listen and look directly into his eyes. He spoke for what seemed to be a couple minutes and then just looked up at me and said, "Thank you for stopping". Before I could say a word I was stunned to notice about a half dozen people scattered around me who were stepping forward to be there and listen to this man. I turned to leave as he was getting up to his feet surrounded by this group of people willing to be 'uncomfortable ' to enter a stranger's personal space of despair. One thing I think we are all in search offs a kind of … 'Accompaniment'. You know, when the voices of the violin and cello and viola are able to play in magnificent unison BECAUSE the musicians are listening so very closely.

  13. I struggle everyday with not wanting to die but not wanting to live either. I often find myself wish I never existed to begin with. I suffer from major depression and anxiety and everyday is a battle, that's why I sleep a lot, to escape my pain when I'm awake. "What happens when you open the box and hope isn't there?" hit me really hard because I've been there, looking for hope and not finding any. It helps to listen, if you know anyone who wants to open up, just listen. I haven't had anyone really listen to me, rather have blamed me or called me selfish. One person that listens can truly help.

  14. In ancient Greece, suicide was accepted. It didn't become taboo until the crusades and the dawn of Christianity. In ancient Greece if you wanted to commit suicide, you would go to a magistrate, tell him you want to die, the magistrate would sign off on it and you would get permission to get the potion, usually hemlock and you would drink it and that was it. Then comes along Christianity and Christianity is what made it unacceptable. Living is not for everyone and any grown adult should have the right to choose between life or death. Assisted suicide should be a human right.

  15. Sometimes it takes a long time to find that one person who will listen. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 21 and wrestled in what felt like a never ending wave pool of life being okay and then being pummelled with waves of suicidal thoughts and hopelessnes. I finally found a counsellor that let me speak and patiently listened. I am 52 now.

  16. I've had suicidal thoughts since I was in middle school. They got the loudest they've ever been when I was diagnosed with PTSD in college. I got them to subside for a while, but they have gotten worse again after I graduated. I keep moving forward, hoping at some point I will be able to keep them at bay for longer than a few weeks, but I can't help but think I will carry this burden my whole life, like Anthony Bourdain did, and maybe one day end up like him. It's hard to one day feel really grateful for life and the next day feel like the world is better off without you. I really relate to when he says suicide isn't meant to hurt other people, they just want to end their own pain. I hope people will understand that if I go through with it one day.

  17. hey I like your videos , keep thinking ..The War on Drugs is a plan to feed the "for-profit" industrial prison complex and destroy a people … Oliver North and South Central LA ….The people responsible for bringing in the drugs are the same ones hypocritically fighting a war on drugs . Crack epidemic = War on Drugs conversely opioid epidemic = treatment …. Livin' in America

  18. im not dead but im not alive im just existing…. i hate the pain im in

  19. People go on about how all pain is temporary but when someone takes their own life the same people claim that their pain is both permanent and the fault of the person who died. We need to stop this victim blaming mentality and understand that it's not as simple as just "snapping out of it"

  20. I planning on susiside,every night is torture. I'm only able to get 2 hours a night. I wish I was dead.

  21. People on the outside can say "There is hope" because they're not on the inside. Inside is where the never-ending, day in/day out loneliness, feelings of abandonment, self-hate, self-unforgiveness, mental and physical exhaustion and pain, repeated failed attempts at changing the situation for the better, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, loss, and grief take place. Hope may reside there for a time, but eventually it loses to everything else that lives and breeds and continues to fester and grow there like a cancer.

    Don't give suicidal people empty platitudes like "There is hope." Instead, listen to them. Be a friend. Spend time with them and demonstrate that they actually really matter to you.Too many people say "I care" but never put that love into action. Prove it. BE THAT HOPE. Don't just talk about it. Become it. THAT is what can make a difference.

  22. I suffer from it too. Have for a long time. I'm trying to strong for my daughter. But its very hard. She is the only thing at times that keeps me going. I truly want you all to know that you're not alone. We are all soldiers of misfortune. And may we keep carrying each other through the war. One day we will prevail!

  23. I believe a lot of the suicidal thoughts and tendancies come from our western society got to have best job , partner, kids , house the way society is geared to make us desire things material things I just bought new shoes and I don't even know why I wander around town drifting in and out of shops consuming thinking I should have purpose in my life by now I'm 40 and drifting I suppose I do need a partner to feel more connected to society but society makes me feel guilty for not having everything by 40 so I get depressed

  24. My sister shot herself to commit suicide after her only two children we're killed by drunk driver at the same time I tried to be there for her it was not a surprise when I found out that she had killed herself but the guilt that I feel that I wasn't there for her at that moment in time is never ending I miss her every day

  25. I took 4 bottles of pills and knew the moment I’d done it that it was a mistake. I instantly called out to Jesus and after hospitalization, I am fully recovered and, miraculously, without brain damage. IT IS NOT THE ANSWER. I wish I could get this important message out to anyone considering it. Spiritual warfare is very real.

  26. These comments break my heart. I know it seems no one cares until it's too late but I promise people do care. Just because people don't notice what you're going through doesn't mean that they want you to suffer in silence. We all get lost in the politics of our own lives and it often becomes difficult to notice when those around us may not be doing well. I promise if you reach out there will be people who want to help you, even if they don't know you that well. Maybe I'll never know what it's like to truly feel this way but I have been in truly dark places and have come out the other side. Hope is always in the box, even if you can't feel or see it. I promise it's always there. If anyone who finds this comment needs to talk about something please respond and I'll do my best to personally discuss whatever it is with you.

  27. Just buried our key man Friday….the VP of our family's successful business. 34 years. Trying to understand why….what could I have done…..something when terribly wrong. Leaning on God to free us from this pain.

  28. No matter who a suicidal person talks to right away they want to strap you down lock you up and use you as an experiment.
    I need help but I dont need to be locked away in a mental hospital

  29. When you're sick, nobody will bring you chicken noodle soup. But when you die, they all show up with flowers.. Crazy huh?

  30. "You listened you let me speak" the exact words I once told my saviour
    Don't worry
    Whoever out there is feeling hopeless just believe me when I say that you will repeat these same words with relief

  31. I cried so much listening to those stories about suicides.
    I cried because I was on that bridge. Not in San Francisco but in my town in Slovenia – Europe.
    The most important thing in that moment is to listen to person that wants to commit suicide.
    In my case I had no one to speak.
    I was totally alone.
    Everyone I knew disappeared.
    Everyone I knew have no time.

    The moment you want to open your heart to someone and there is no one to listen to.. it's the hardest.

    I did some bad things and I became conscious about them.
    In that time I worked too much, not enjoying in my free time. Not being happy in the relationship I found someone else. But after realizing what I did to my partner, to my wife and my child, I became very ashamed.
    I went away but more I realized more conscious I became more it hurt. Wanted to say I'm sorry for what I did but was very ashamed.
    You can't imagine, how painful is when you know when you feel what you did and you hurt your family but also self the most.

    And in one moment during Christmas holidays I was totally alone and on 21st of December 2011 I decided to end my life.

    While standing on that bridge I thought.. the best thing is to go away and the world will be a better place.. without me.

    And that the moment I thought about water depth.

    And when almost went away from the bridge, small vision of my child of my daughter came out.
    What's leverage am I going to leave to my child?
    Beautiful Christmas present, father failure loser.

    And from that moment I step down from the bridge. I went home and found friend, in my mirror, me.

    And that's night and a whole morning I was speaking with self, listening to self, encouraging self.

    That early morning on 22nd December, I am at this beautiful man..courageous, smart, kind, loving, funny.. I found me.

    And from that moment I live my life as full as possible.

    And from that moment I listen to people.

    You might imagine how hard it is but you will never know how it's standing on the bridge ready to die.

    If you want do something good, just listen to people.

  32. Poor Kevin, diagnosed with mental illness instead of given healthy diet, knowledge about his brain and chemical regulations and healing from the Trauma of his childhood.. MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT A HEREDITARY TRAIT.

  33. Jason pissed me off. I felt for him until he waited a few seconds and didn't wait for their response then jumps. That's a d!ck move.

  34. They tell me to show my arms. It's funny how close they get. They still haven't seen my mutilated shoulders.

  35. My ex husband shot himself with three policemen only ten feet away from him at the time he did it. He had planned it for this specific day. He wasn't some criminal or something. He was a mechanical engineer with his Master's degree from Virginia Tech. He got to fly all over the world for his job, had his name on 15 patents and we had two beautiful children. But he was bipolar and had recently lost his 22 years of sobriety. I just couldn't believe it when I got that call from our 14 year old son, and he said 'a lady wants to talk to you', and it was the coroner.

  36. Ted, I want to ask you something. What shall a human do who has seen everything, is happy but does not want to live anymore. What suggestions would you give them?

  37. She didn't want to die. She cried for attention. Men kill themselves for the escape. Women kill themselves for attention.

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

  39. 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

  40. 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

  41. 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)

  42. 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‼️

  43. 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.

  44. 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

  45. 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.

  46. 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.

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