Kevin Briggs: Building a bridge of suicide prevention
The two biggest pieces of advice from Kevin Briggs to prevent a friend or loved one from dying by suicide are to be unafraid to ask the question (Are you thinking of ending your life?) and to listen. Briggs knows what he’s talking about after working the Golden Gate bridge as a police officer for 23 years before recently retiring. He estimates that he has talked to hundreds of suicidal individuals during his career at a rate of at least two people per month. Officer Briggs recently talked about his experiences in his frank and deeply moving TED talk.
The Golden Gate bridge is a popular tourist destination, and, unfortunately, it is also one of the most popular places chosen by individuals who are suicidal. The official count of how many people have died by suicide after jumping from the bridge ended at 1,000 in 1995. Suicide is easily romanticized, and the local coroner asked that local media stop reporting on the increasing tally of deaths. The startling number is thought to be around 1600 today.
One well known survivor of a suicide attempt at the bridge is Kevin Hines. He is a member of a large group of approximately one million adults who attempt suicide each year. Traditionally, organizations within the suicide prevention movement have discouraged individuals who have attempted suicide from talking about their experience. This recently changed in April when the American Association of Suicidology voted to recognize and encourage those who have survived suicide attempts to speak about it to others. One of the concerns in the past has been whether or not this would truly help those who are contemplating suicide. I think it all depends on the manner in which the experience is shared. All of the survivors I have read about have something in common, and that is at the moment they took their step toward death they immediately knew they had made a mistake. They wanted to live. Suicide is the most preventable cause of death. As Officer Briggs put it, “by just being there, you may be the turning point that they need.”