Guardian of the Golden Gate: Protecting the Line Between Hope and Despair
Publisher: Ascend Books LLC
ISBN 10: 0990437574
ISBN 13: 978-0990437574
The wind was gusting around the Golden Gate Bridge on a March afternoon in 2005 when a 22-year-old man climbed the railing, convinced he and this world would be better without each other. He put himself on a thin beam 220 feet above the Pacific Ocean. The man had just lost his job and felt overwhelmed as a new father. Kevin Berthia wanted to die, and he had come to the world's most effective suicide destination to make that happen. That's when he met a highway patrolman, a former Army soldier and San Quentin State Prison guard named Kevin Briggs. 'I know you must be in tremendous pain,' Briggs said over the railing. 'If you want to talk, I m here to listen.' The next 90 minutes saved Berthia's life. 'I opened up about stuff I d never dealt with before,' he recalls. 'Kevin gave me a reason to try again.' Berthia is one of hundreds of Americans to come within inches of ending their lives with a jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, only to meet Briggs and decide to give life another chance. Out of those hundreds who have talked with Briggs on the bridge, only two have jumped. As he told the San Francisco Chronicle, 'I've talked to people from ten minutes to seven hours. I very much despise losing. I do whatever I can to get that person back over the rail. I play to win.' Before his days at the Golden Gate, Briggs spent three years in the Army before being discharged after a cancer diagnosis. He beat cancer and then entered law enforcement as a correctional officer. He was Charles Manson's prison guard, among others, at San Quentin. His own personal story includes heart issues and dealing with divorce and depression in his family. The bulk of Briggs career was with the California State Highway Patrol, including more than two decades with the Marin County office. There, he worked predominately on the Golden Gate Bridge, which every month produces four to six suicidal subjects, multiple traffic collisions, and dozens of other law enforcement calls. After 9-11, security was heightened even more. Briggs had no training with suicide prevention or mental illness before taking the job but has since become such a respected expert that he's helped train the FBI and several major corporations. He's been called 'a true American hero' by Robert Gebbia, director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and is among the country's most active speakers in promoting crisis management, leadership skills, and suicide intervention and prevention worldwide. His TED Talk has been viewed well over a million times. More Americans die of suicide than homicide every year. Nine percent of Americans are dealing with depression at any particular time, many of them with major depression that can last a lifetime. Depression is the leading cause of disability for Americans age 15 to 44. These are underappreciated problems in the United States, at least in part, because they're usually hidden and often come with a stigma of shame. In Guardian of the Golden Gate, Briggs shares his experiences with the help of people who credit their lives to him. His inspiring story will help shine a light on a killer that lurks in the darkness and show readers signs to look for and the value of hope. You will gain insight into this steadfast hero that will allow you to see why he's known as the Golden Gate's guardian. Kevin Briggs aims to promote mental illness awareness and ultimately break the stigmas associated with it. By reading this book, you join him in that pursuit. Suicide is preventable. There is hope. There is help.
In this debut memoir, a retired cop shares his life experiences and insights that contributed to his helping hundreds of people decide against suicide. As a highway patrol officer, Briggs beat included San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge a top suicide destination. Unhappy people are, just like tourists, drawn to the iconic landmark's beautiful setting and mysterious fogs. I know that every ten days or so, someone walks on the Bridge and never comes back, writes Briggs of his two decades working the bridge, during which he lost only two people to suicide and helped to save more than 200. (A suicide-deterrent net is expected to be completed this year.) Now retired, Briggs is an advocate for suicide awareness and prevention. When he began, however, he had no training in such matters; what he did have was an awareness of his own losses, as well as severe health problems, grief, and depression, as detailed here with openness and honesty. His stints in the Army and as a San Quentin correctional officer also taught him to read people and situations. When approaching a suicidal person, Briggs recommends empathy, compassion, and adaptability; also crucial, he says, is focusing on the good and trying to find hope. He says to ask simple questions, such as, Where are you from? or what are you doing tomorrow? Leave ego out of it, he says; don't be too loud, abrupt, or argumentative, and don't deny their reality: The first instinct when someone tells you their life is worthless is to say, No, no it s not. That feels like empathy to you, but to the person you re talking to...it can feel like...one more stranger saying, You're wrong. This well-written, clear, and lively memoir helps to humanize the struggles of those in despair including, at one point, Briggs own son. It offers a thoughtful, heartbreaking discussion of how suicide affects those left behind, together with revealing glimpses from one of the few survivors of a Golden Gate Bridge jump. Readers will be convinced of the importance of good crisis-intervention training and of prevention efforts, such as suicide barriers. Important, deeply compassionate insights on how to best prevent suicide. --Kirkus Reviews
Sgt. Kevin Briggs is a man who cares for others passionately and who has the unparalleled experience to support his views on how to help those in crisis. His stories get the reader as close to the real thing as possible. As one who also has been in the position of talking to people who wanted to jump off of a bridge, I can honestly say Sgt. Briggs' account is truthful, respectful, forthright, and helpful to anyone who has tried to help someone contemplating suicide. --Dr. Andrew T. Young LPC-S, NCC, Professor in Behavioral Sciences, Lubbock Christian University, SWAT Negotiator, Lubbock Police Department
Kevin's experience shines a bright light on a topic we have long sought to bring out of the dark. This book highlights the practical tools and skills that helped give hundreds of people a 'tomorrow,' sharing the immense power of connections and most importantly--that suicide can be prevented. --Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO, National Council for Behavioral Health
From the Inside Flap
More Americans die by suicide than by homicide or vehicular accidents every year. Nine percent of Americans are dealing with depression at any particular time, many of them with major depression that can last a lifetime. Depression is the leading cause of disability for Americans age 15 to 44. These are under-appreciated problems because they're usually hidden and often come with a stigma of shame.In Guardian of the Golden Gate, Briggs shares his experiences with the help of people who credit their lives to him. His inspiring story will help shine a light on a killer that lurks in the darkness and show readers signs to look for and the value of hope. You will gain insight into this steadfast hero that will allow you to see why he's known as the Golden Gate's guardian.