AUSTIN, Texas – Kevin Briggs has faced many challenges throughout his lifetime.
From being abused by a neighbor as a child to finding out he had testicular cancer as a young adult to dealing with a difficult divorce later in life, he understands that life can offer both wonderful highs and incredibly low lows.
He also knows what it means to choose to keep on living.
Known as the “Guardian of the Golden Gate,” Briggs is a former California Highway Patrol sergeant who dedicated 23 years on the job to serving the public, including individuals grappling with suicide.
For 10 years, Briggs was responsible for intervening in crisis situations along San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge – a behemoth, 1.7-mile-long transit route and well-known landmark – and succeeded in supporting more than 110 people to make the decision not to jump from the bridge’s edge to the water 220 feet below.
“Imagine the courage that it takes to come back over and start life again,” Briggs said.
Now retired, Briggs speaks at 30–50 events per year, encouraging others to seek help in overcoming difficulties and to be attentive listeners and friends to those who may be going through dark times.
“That’s what this is about: being there for someone,” Briggs said, adding that “each and every one of us plays a role in prevention.”
He believes that professional care, support and self-care all contribute to what he calls the “Quality of Life Triad.” He also knows that there are ways to shift the mind away from self-harm in the most critical of moments, such as by taking an ice-cold shower, engaging in intense exercise or practicing paced breathing.
Briggs shared these and other insights with Army Futures Command personnel on Sept. 19, as part of the command’s observance of Suicide Prevention Month. As an Army Veteran, Briggs could relate to the stressors that military members may encounter, and was himself diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stemming from his childhood abuse.
He acknowledged that suicide, which is the second leading cause of death for people ages 20-34 years, is “a very tough subject” and that many people considering suicide feel like they have run out of options and “can’t see past right now.”
“They’re in a lot of pain, they feel like they’re a burden – to their families and everybody else,” Briggs explained.
However, he wants others to know that shame and hurt can be overcome, and that there is always a reason for hope.
“We don’t know what opportunities are coming our way sometimes,” Briggs said.
If you or someone you know needs help, please dial 988 and press 1 for the Military Crisis Line.
To learn more about Suicide Prevention Month, visit the Army Resilience webpage here.
To hear Kevin Briggs speak on the bridge between suicide and life, see here.