‘Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge’ talks mental health, suicide at benefit event in Downtown Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - At Saturday’s ‘Unmasking Stigma’ fundraiser in Topeka’s Townsite Tower, the audience heard the personal life experiences of national keynote speaker Kevin Briggs, a retired California Highway Patrol Officer.
“I spent 23 years with the California Highway Patrol. About 10 years of that was working on the Golden Gate Bridge, which was a fantastic place to work, but it also is the number one spot in the United States for loss of life to suicide, Briggs said. “Most people don’t’ know that and i didn’t know that when I started working on the bridge. I had no training what to say to folks, how to handle these situations.”
Throughout his time serving on the Highway Patrol, Briggs encouraged more than 200 people to not jump off the bridge, earning him the nickname “Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge.”
“It was quite sometime before I learned through talking to people who were actively suicidal on that bridge how to approach, what to say, what not to say. So I’m going to talk about that tonight, and how we can have a better communication with folks who are contemplating suicide.”
Briggs said it was in those difficult face-to-face moments where he developed the tools that helped save lives.
“Everything was about them and I talked about gratitude, thanked them for just being here and talking to us. And normalizing what they’re going through and validating them. That must be very very difficult, what you’re going through. To get to that point of being suicidal, what can we say to them to get them to want to live?”
Valeo CEO Bill Persinger said Briggs was the perfect voice to share a genuine perspective on suicide prevention and mental health in hopes of unmasking the stigma.
“The main message tonight is to make people aware that if depression becomes too deep and dark, if anxiety becomes too overwhelming, we want to raise awareness for suicide prevention. But we just also want people to know that Valeo’s doors are always open 24 hours a day, regardless of a person’s income, or their situation, or what their needs are.”
Briggs estimates he dissuades about two people every month from jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge while on the California Highway Patrol.
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