Tell The Others

Suicide Prevention and Crisis Negotiation With Sergeant Kevin Briggs

May 11, 2020 Heidi Rogers / Kevin Briggs Episode 1
Tell The Others
Suicide Prevention and Crisis Negotiation With Sergeant Kevin Briggs
Chapters
Tell The Others
Suicide Prevention and Crisis Negotiation With Sergeant Kevin Briggs
May 11, 2020 Episode 1
Heidi Rogers / Kevin Briggs

Heidi speaks with retired California Highway Patrolman Kevin Briggs (aka: The Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge) about his suicide prevention work, his time as a crisis negotiator, managing depression on the job, talking people back from the edge, and his post-CHiPS life. This fascinating look at the life and work of Sergeant Briggs is the first in Heidi’s new podcast series, Tell The Others.

Learn more about Sergeant Briggs and his work below:
http://www.pivotal-points.com/
http://www.facebook.com/PivotalPoints
https://twitter.com/pivotalpts
[email protected]













Show Notes Transcript

Heidi speaks with retired California Highway Patrolman Kevin Briggs (aka: The Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge) about his suicide prevention work, his time as a crisis negotiator, managing depression on the job, talking people back from the edge, and his post-CHiPS life. This fascinating look at the life and work of Sergeant Briggs is the first in Heidi’s new podcast series, Tell The Others.

Learn more about Sergeant Briggs and his work below:
http://www.pivotal-points.com/
http://www.facebook.com/PivotalPoints
https://twitter.com/pivotalpts
[email protected]













Unknown Speaker :

Hi, everyone. Thanks again for joining us for another episode of tell the others. I'm joined today by retired California Highway Patrol officer Kevin Briggs. Kevin has quite an interesting career and not just doing Highway Patrol, but there's some interesting bits from his career that he'll tell you about shortly. Thanks, Kevin, for being with us. It's nice to meet you. Oh, absolutely. Happy to be here. This is great. We're able to do this. Yeah. Especially given the current circumstances of everyone being stuck at home that we can actually, I think me the only way we can correct. It is so for all of our listeners, who are people who maybe haven't seen your TED talk or who have never seen you speak before. Could you just share a little bit about your background, your your career history, and yeah, a little bit of what you've been up to your life during your life? Sure. I'm Kevin Briggs. Just very quick before I get into the California Highway Patrol part, right out of high school, I went to the United States Army and want to talk eventually about trauma and what happens to folks and we're gonna talk about behavioral health, mental illness, and yeah, we can do but when we talk about trauma at age 20, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in the army in Germany, way far away from my family and everything. So how the operations and went all through that. And and you talked about when we talked about our manhood and such, it's a it's a very brutal hit, and I was just 20 years old, turned 21 The day I landed back here in the United States, but I went off through that did three years in the Army, got out and started working in state corrections, and worked at San Quentin San Quentin State Prison for a couple of years and then in 1998, went into the highway patrol. And after a few years, I got back to my hometown, which is Marin County. I started working on the Golden Gate Bridge 94 ish, 94 and I had crossed the bridge hundreds of times before going into San Francisco because Marin County connects to San Francisco via that Golden Gate Bridge. But I had no idea. The number of suicidal folks that came to that bridge every year, I found out very, very fast. And I had no training. I didn't know what to say what not to say. So it was it was brutal. Wow. I learned very quickly that if I wanted to work on that bridge, I'm going to get these calls. So I kind of developed myself and and spoke to a lot of people, a lot of senior people, both who work on the bridge and with Highway Patrol started to do my own research. I wanted to become better at this. And you know, some people say, Well, why did you want to work on the bridge and do that? It's because I think the look in people's eyes that are standing over this four foot rail, pedestrian rail on this eye beam that's over on the other side, and then it's just 220 feet down. Oh, but look in their eyes and see that that Most of the time, these folks want to live, but they just can't get past this particular crisis or series of crisis that have gone on in their lives. So it's very, very sad to see that. So I wanted to become better at this craft of negotiations. And it was some years before I was able to get some training, some crisis intervention training, CIT, or we call it here, which I think is big out there also. And then yeah, way towards the later part of my career almost to retirement to when I went through the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Investigation through their crisis negotiator School, which helped tremendously but I wish I would have had that training. Seriously. Yeah. I'm doing it all backwards here. I want a dog Yes, I think about that way patrol, but that's it's a government agency. department. So it's, yeah, it's gonna be lots of reading along the way. A lot of things happen. I had some stents put in my heart. I'm pretty sure You're the guy that that my heart surgeon went to school before he put this dance at my heart. He didn't have to. But, you know, along the way diagnosed with depression. Mm hmm. So I take a couple of different medications for that and going through the mental health area arena. Yeah, going through my general practitioner, I kind of been denied to say, Hey, Doc, I've had some things go on and some trauma in my life. I'd like to see a psychiatrist that telling me No, but then, Hey, Kevin, unless you're actively suicidal, which I told him, I was not gonna recommend you do this. So I make that very clear to folks when I give presentations around the world to tell them Oh, you got to ante up for yourself. Yeah. And, and so you know what, no, I am going to do this. And thank God, I did go go. Yes, I say yes. And that really helped. Yeah, and talking about it. But yeah, yeah. Cool. Well, thanks for the your life story in two seconds. Fast and Furious. That's the fast recap. That's good. I think it's interesting to to talk about our, you know, our own mental health. And I think it's important, I went through a period of depression and that was suicidal periods in my early 20s. And I agree with you that I think it's important to talk about in a public setting like one, I think, to reduce the stigma, but also, I think to show people like, yes, like, this is what depression looks like, like, it's not necessarily I'm just laying in bed and like, you can't get out of your jammies. Like that's a part of it. But like, that's not what it always looks like for everyone that being on when and then I was on medication for years and being on medication. Definitely saved my life. And I think I, whenever, you know, you hear people saying, like, I don't want them to go on medication. I don't want to go on medication. I'm always just like, but you guys, it's here like it's designed for this. Like we're so lucky to be alive in this period of time where these medications and You know, I think that's really cool that you talked about it. I'm with you on that I talked about it as well. I think it's important. Yeah. And, and I particularly as you probably do also, I don't discuss the medications. Yeah, cuz I don't want people run on what worked for Kevin brings. But yeah, a lot of hard times with things and I still have bad mental health days. But I show folks if it goes on for a couple of weeks, man, we got to get in and see somebody. Yeah, and we talked about men. They're the worst as far as getting help, you know, we man up we take it in, we suck it up. I sucked it up for years for decades, totally different things and going through different things. And absolutely. When I was going downhill, I didn't want to I would go to work and be fine, everything be great. But when I came home, I didn't want to do a thing. I could sit on the couch for days at a time. And I'm thinking for one nobody's gonna believe this. What can they possibly do about it? You know, how could you go to work and be great, but the ammo and do nothing? Yeah, exactly. The truth and yeah, when I started to talk to people in the field, they said, Oh, they hate and that does happen. So we weren't working. And it's still it's been a number of years, I'm still a work in progress as most people are. And I'm happy to do it. And I explain my story when I talk to folks and say, This is what happened to me. There is help out there, but boy, we got to start with ourselves. Yeah. 100%, especially when it comes to helping others. Yeah. But, you know, we can ask to start here. I'm a big believer in that. Yeah. What do you think in you know, knowing kind of the that you said trauma and knowing that you've had I mean, the cancer and the term in the military and then going through everything you've been through, working on the bridge. And, you know, I know a lot for me as a trauma clinician that vicarious trauma is a thing. You know, that's something that we who deal with the public that have lots of trauma we have to kind of protect ourselves from and always be mindful of and I think It's always interesting that those of us who get into a helping profession are usually very, very sensitive, empathic people and it's almost like in some ways we're the worst people for the job because we feel so deeply and we're so like connected to people and you know, we get teary and that kind of thing. But I think in, in the reality of it isn't the greatest thing. But the empathic sensitive hearts are the ones that like to help people and do this work because we care so deeply about people but it makes me think what that would have been like, patrolling the bridge and encountering people in so much pain and I know those faces I know exactly when you said that, that look in their eyes. I've seen that in client's eyes hundreds of times. But what do you think the impact of that is like? Cuz Do you think the impact of doing that for you know decades, has played a role in your depression and has played a role in how it's played. have impacted your chemistry and your Yeah, I think so just as it would in your role. Yeah. And I'm looking at someone, and now many times it's, it's not over the rail, maybe it's on the sidewalk, maybe it's in their car in the parking lots and they're writing a note, or they're making a recording. So is that note a Hey, wish you guys were here. This is a great time, like most people been? Or is it a suicide note? He's telling you goodbye. I love you. Please don't think ill of me or whatever that may be, but to look in someone's eyes, and I look at this when I'm teaching young officers, if they want to do this type of work, wherever it's if I'm presenting or even when I was employed with a highway patrol, and I would tell them, unfortunately, I'm going to bare bones and give it to you how it is up here. You're going to lose people. And that's just the way it is. and it sucks. It really does. But I want you to think about how many you helped. And I'll say save Because I didn't rush into a burning building and pull people out or anything like that, but we helped them on a very dark day. And I think we and it's not just me doing this, there's people all over the world doing this kind of thing. I mean it, but I, you know, I tell them, if you're going to work down on the bridge, you are going to get these calls until that barrier is completed. But you are going to help a hell of a lot more than you will lose. I'm hoping that you don't lose anybody, by just you got to have it in the back of your head, then that individual falls and I teach him another thing too. And it's not a secret or anything else. But I tell them don't if somebody jumps, if you see it's inevitable. Don't watch them fall, because that's what's going to be in your head the rest of your life. And, and the ones that I have lost I have watched because I want to mark the body. It's it's a whole lot of different things, but I don't want to lose that body. It's very important to get it and we do lose quite a few bodies once they hit that water. Whether they do Think whether the washed out to sea, whatever that may be. So we mark it. And I want to market them and have the Coast Guard pick them up. So if we get down to the, you know, the bare bones of this, it's terrible it is. But I want these folks to be prepared. And I would tell that to anybody in any circumstance, if you're talking to someone, even if it's over the phone, and for some reason, you sense that it's not going well maybe try to pull those zeros or whatever it may be. Just so that's not in your head. Mm hmm. And then if it does start bothering you, you're not sleeping at night, whatever that may be you you're angry at your significant other now a lot more than than you used to be are these different things that occur to us get some help. It's very, very important. Because it's like I tell them time and time again, it starts with us. And part of my therapy is I'm going to show you sleep and come Come come come in sorry. We she's lazy. Oh, that's Bella. Hello for small bug ever. And they are Can you come and see me? Good girl Come oh my god she's so cute. Good girl. So my therapy. Yeah, small dog ever I know she's big she's Chihuahua something no just pure pure Chihuahua just pure cha she looks like she has markings of like a Rottweiler dachshund or something. wanted their mind wanted a Okay Here you go. I wanted a Doberman. But I'm gone. A lot of people take care of her. Yeah, she is so cool. But that's what I want to tell people too is taking care of yourself. That's one aspect of it. Yeah, just by putting your dog and I know some people like cats or I do at Montana for eight days in September. A lot of horses out there and people love their horses or whatever they have or into, you know, going to the gym with, like to do that. Whatever it is. So that's a big part of it, too, is not just our job. And when I talk to clinicians, I really emphasize this because you said it yourself. They don't see it or they think maybe some may think they're above it. It's not gonna happen to me. This is what I've been trained to do for many many years. And I did have well I it happened sauna. Quite a few instances where I'm talking about it. And all sudden it hits him I can see it in the audience. And one lady she was over 65 years old, still practicing as a clinician, very lovely lady. She came up to me after I talked about compassion, fatigue and vicarious trauma, vicarious trauma, and she said, Thank you for pointing that out. That's the nail that really hit it on the head. I'm gonna get some help. She's been doing this for decades. And they see it they know it. But yeah, take something else make a spark to make hundred percent. You have the right to be happy in my opinion. So, if you're helping others, you know, get some help. So you can help and continue to help those folks to totally agree. I, I think I will dip in and out of therapy for the rest of my life like I do, like chunks of work, you know, like something happens like when I got pregnant with my first child that stirred up a whole bunch of stuff, you know, like how life transitions do did a you know chunk of work then then my dad was unwell last year did a chunk of work, then I just sort of do, you know, little nuggets of work with my therapist here. And I just think it's so important and I just think, how can I be a good clinician? And like, helping other people one if I'm not clear on what my stuff is my crap from my past, you know, my baggage, my self limiting beliefs, whatever. How can I fully help someone but then also, how do I hold all of this stuff that people come and share all of their pain, all of their trauma, right? Especially being a trauma specialist, like an sexual abuse specialist. So I'm hearing so much pain and suffering, I have to have somewhere to put that right to process that with someone. And that's why it's a large part of my therapy is just kind of, you know, sometimes I'll sit and cry about a story I've heard that is really horrific. Or, you know, something that I just can't stop thinking about, you know, a client might tell me a really horrific story from say childhood or something that I just can't stop thinking about, because it's just, it's so painful and so just horrific. And I need to have a place to dump and just kind of go so so horrible and hearing about it. And then what happens is you you know, you refill your cup, and then it's like you then have capacity again to go and help. And the thing I guess with your work though, is it's so intense and so extreme, whereas me not being in crisis. I'm hearing about stories and traumas that have happened, you know, a month ago, a year ago, 20 years ago, but for you that visceral like just so intense. How did you? I have so many questions, but I'll go with the first one. I thought of that first person, the first suicidal call you got so someone, I guess the radio calls in and says we have someone who's standing parked, sitting whatever on the bridge. What were you going through how many months years weeks, were you on the job at this point? And what was going through your mind as you pulled up? I had been on the job for several years, but not very long in Marin County, California, which holds all throughout the state. I have done over by Oakland. Most people have heard of Oakland, California. Yeah, I was in that area in Hayward. A town over there. Oh my gosh, my family. They're my sisters. Brothers from there. Yeah, I know Hayward well out of my jokes. But it's rough shooting a lot. So, my first four or five years were spent in Hayward, so I learned a hell look it's way different than marine County. Oh yeah. Oh yeah marine for people listening Marin is more of so for Melvin suburbs it would be like to rack or Beverly Hills or Yeah, Marina is very nice. Yeah, demands are nice. So I get back to Morin and people didn't want to work on the bridge very much. I don't know why but I don't do well my heat. So I like to go down south. This is Southern NMR. And, and it's actually cold there a lot. The very, very cold on the bridge. I started working there and I received this call and nobody had spoke to me about this. I didn't know what to say what to do. Back then I was still in a car instead of the motorcycle. So I arrived on scene. And there's this we get the call. It's just like it is abuse, if they know what the gender is a woman over the female and we use lightning Post, like posts which run up and down the bridge. So they'll give me like post numbered and odd. They're odd numbers on that side of the bridge and I'll say 33 or whatever that is. So I arrive on scene there she is over the rail. And I walk up my a what and I have no clue of how to handle this. way different than that. Not that oh my expert, but what can I say? How do I yeah, yeah, yeah. So I walk up and, and I just Hi. I, it's, it's it's gonna be it's gonna sound funny, but it was really tragic on my part and her part, which she did come back over. took some time. But when I walked up to part of me, I was still in police mode, like yes, almost. What are you doing over there? Yeah, Bert, and you're not supposed to do that. Don't do that. Yeah. What the hell is going on here? Yeah. So but then it kicked in that no, she's suffering. So we talked for a while and she was on the verge of being home. homeless and drugs were involved. I don't believe they were involved at that particular time. But but for years, and we talked for not that half hour or something in that range, but she wanted to come back over, but she was looking for a reason. And, and I and I went into all the things that I thought back then. Wow. And I think things that I would say back then were What? No, how can you do this to your family? kind of stuff? And way different than what I would do now? Don't say things. Yeah, yeah. But I think and she looked at I think she saw a lot of empathy in me. Yeah, maybe she had pity on me. So she little does she know she was your first. Yeah. And then what did you feel like after I mean, when she crossed back over the barrier and kind of came back to the into the living. Did you feel a bit like? I mean, I imagine the adrenaline and the cortisol that would have been pumping through your body, I'm tipping, you probably would have started shaking after she came across like, what did you then and once you kind of got her safe or kind of handed her over to whoever is the next point of call on the protocol? What did you then when you were sitting there with your thoughts? What was going through your head like just totally should have I can't believe that happened or like, What are you thinking? So I felt that I did a very inadequate job, I was very lucky that she came back over and say, You know what, if I want to work down here, I better get my act together. Because if this is going to occur, I want to be will be, you know, a lot more are paired. So I started talking to some senior officers who had worked down there, and some folks who worked at the Golden Gate Bridge and I wanted to study more. So I and I just started learning more about human nature and Why folks would get to that level? How do they get to that level? What could I do? Here I am dressed in a uniform, which isn't the best approach to make to someone who is in crisis. But I came up with my own things over the years. And it really helped. And that's what I teach now like not to look at someone if they do go, but how do we get past that if we do lose someone And wouldn't you know, for ourselves? So, um, a couple things I do before I retired is, is when I would walk up to someone just not to walk up to them directly, but actually stay back 1015 feet and I would just raise my hand Hi, and they could see me need to form say, Hi, I'm Kevin. I want to personalize everything if they allow me to use their first name, that's big. But Hi, I'm Kevin, is it okay if I come up and speak with you for a while and to get their permission? Because many folks look at us in law enforcement and they think oh, My god, I'm in trouble. Here we go, he's going to come and start demanding things. This is not the place time and place for that. I want to get their permission to come up. And when they do, of course, we're keeping officer safety always in the back of our minds. But to find out what's really been going on, and if they're speaking, I'm shutting up, I'll use one of our active listening skills is called minimal encouragers as just when they're talking to me, I'm just going, Wow, really? Is that right? let them speak. That's the biggest thing is people want to project onto them and tell them what you know what she should have done, and not stay clear of anything like that. If they're speaking, I'm just gonna listen. The longer they're speaking, the better. They're venting, they're getting everything out. I'm getting more information gathering information. So some things I avoid, are you should calm down, I understand things will get better because if you're over That rail, you're in a very, very dark place. And I'm telling you, you know what you should have done. Ah, I'm placing blame on you. You're going to shut down. It's going to go bad. You know? Or to tell you I understand, well, I've had some things. I've been some crashes. I've had some head injuries at the heart trauma, I had cancer. We've all had some things. But I don't talk about those with folks. Because it's about them. It's not the Kevin Brink story. Totally. If they come up with, you don't know what it's like to have cancer. Well, I did then maybe we can talk about that and share our crappy experience. The commonality, commonalities, create comfort. So those are some things that I try to stay clear of and why Why'd you do that? Why are you here? Hmm. So I can't make things better. Don't even try to, but I can certainly listen and maybe I think what's like, the maybe like a horse with the blinders on. Maybe I can open it up a little bit. I will tell them I think this is very important is I will tell them when you come back, not if but when you come back over that rail, I have to place you in handcuffs. But that's only because that's our policy. You're not going to be arrested, you're not going to get a ticket. And then I'm going to take you down to more than likely at San Francisco General Hospital, but wherever we need to go, and that's what we do with folks. And that's it. I don't do follow up. I don't believe in that. I don't think it's right. Hey, remember me? I'm the guy. I didn't save anybody. Yeah, but it's important that for me, I want them to come back on the road. So I don't reach over and grab them. Because I think it takes a hell of a lot of courage to go over that rail to begin with. Yeah, I think it takes even more to come back and face everything because I'm not gonna be able to fix it, nor would I be a foolish person that and I think they'd be all over me. If I said that. I could see it. Right. I agree with you on that, that I think it's I mean, obviously, I've never done any sort of bridge patrol, you know, I have no idea what I would do in the situations. But when I'm thinking about it now, I think that makes sense. Because one of the things in your TED talk, you said, You shook someone's hand, and then they jumped. And I thought to myself, I wonder why he didn't, you know, when he shook the guy's hand, why he didn't pull him. And then I thought I was having this whole sort of conversation with myself. And I was like, well, maybe they train them not to do that, because he could have pulled him wisdom, you know, and then I was thinking about it. And I was like, I don't think I would have either I think I would have, you know, shook hands but, but not done that. So in some ways, you see videos of that where there's someone who's suicidal and then people go and like tackle them. And I agree with you because I think it's a very important moment for them to choose to live and to make a conscious choice to get that close as well to be so close and to that Then make the conscious choice to not i'm not going to do it. I choose life today, I think is a really like beautiful moment that you're depriving them of I think by tackling them or you know, pulling them over or whatever. I think Yeah, I'm with you that makes total sense, even though I've no experience with it, and you do, but it just it makes total sense. But I guess what was that like those times where you maybe had an opportunity? Did it cross your mind sometimes to bear hug them and tackle them across? Or, you know, when you shook that guy's hand does it cross did it cross your mind is like every single time, every time that I'm there with them, because that gentleman that shook my hand, he shook my hand three times. And on the third time, he said, Kevin, thank you very much, but I have to go and he jumped. And it just, it just breaks your heart. I think it's fine that officers if they want to try that and do that, that's fine. I want folks to come back on their own, I think they have to want to be better. If they don't want to be better, then I think it's going to come back to another crisis. You know, we know if we can get them past this crisis many, many times, they won't attempt it again. But I think they have a much better chance of success. If they do this on their own. Yes, we could grab them and I have I, you know, God's grace to everybody, that our officers or civilians, whoever it is, that has been on a bridge or a tall building, whatever it is, and did grab folks and bring them back that I have no issues with that. But just for me, and how I operate, I want folks to come back on their own because it's going to be tough, it's not going to be easy. And I think if you have the courage to come back over that rail and start rebirth a second life that I think you can go back in your head and think I you know what, that was a very, very tough day today isn't even as bad so I can get through today because I got past that day. As well as, yeah, and that makes it I think it's totally logical. And out of all of the people and the the stories that you've heard, I mean, you have probably heard, you're like an accidental counselor, you know, like you're an accidental therapist, like you've heard so many stories and so much trauma. Because I know you don't get to that point of wanting to check out you don't get to that point unless you've experienced some sort of trauma. So, yeah, out of all of the stories, what, what are some, I don't know, what's something that sort of sticks with you? Because like, I know, when I think about all the clients I've worked with, I have a handful that, you know, I will remember for the rest of my life, either from the stories or most of the time. I think the ones that stick with me is the adversity, that people are able to overcome, that you just you, your mind is blown sometimes when you hear Stories of just wow. And also sometimes like, No wonder you're sitting on the side of a bridge man like, I would be too if I had gone through all that, like my lord like that is just so painful. What are kind of, I don't know, I guess a few of the ones that really stand out to you, either the ones that you shared in the TED talk or other ones that are the ones that are like just really touched you or really I don't know are the are your those handful that you're really memorable for you? It's the ones and even I know one gentleman that I didn't even get a chance to speak with. He jumped but then he had in his pocket. He had just been released from jail for child sexual abuse. So he was I guess, very, very embarrassed about it. He came up to the bridge Didn't we didn't get a chance to speak with him and and he jumps so Things like that the trauma that they inflict on someone else. Yes. So now that they got caught the embarrassment and everything else that's going to come out with, then the trauma that has been placed onto other people from from early on, you know, the child abuse, the child neglect and the different things. It's so hard to work around and work past that and to say, you know what, you can have brighter days, you can have better days. And then the folks, of course, who are homeless and been homeless for a very, very long time, and they were staying with different family members. But finally, that was used up and they didn't know where to go. So they went up on the bridge. It's, how do you so called fix something or do that in a half an hour to an hour to two hours, whatever that may be. So it's just brutal to hear these folks and you almost want to cry when you're in front of them. And you know, things can get better, but, you know, man, it's gonna take a long time. before things get better for this individual, yeah, today is a bad day, you're gonna have worse days, you're gonna have some good days. But just, it's very difficult. But we try to take this sometimes a minute at a time. And even when you're off the brace when I'm talking to folks, we're going to have bad days. But if we can have these little goals, okay, my goal today is to get up and make my bet number one, to get up and have a cup of coffee to take a foot out the door. Because for me, I have this anxiety and sometimes it's very difficult for me to leave the house. So if I can push myself to take that little dog out for a walk, that could change things, you know, for that day. So it's difficult, and I've seen sure you've seen these types of things all the time. Mm hmm. But what can we offer to folks that maybe they haven't thought of what's that glimmer? What are they responsible for? One brings purpose to their life. And I think that's One is, everybody needs a purpose. If we look at it now, kind of every single person out there who's working wanted a vacation, but they certainly don't want it now. Now that what's going on and we're all in our homes and not out. I'm tired of watch Dvf gained 10 pounds. I want to go back to work. And I want to go back to work if you want to. But that was their writing there. They want to go back. Yeah, yeah, it's interesting, too. I think just that that piece about what to say and what not to say. Because I think maybe that's something helpful that we could share because I don't know if everyone has encountered it. Surely everyone encounters someone who gets that low. Maybe they don't know that they're suicidal at the moment, but they, they maybe know that they're very sad or very low. People will often say, you know, clients will say to me like, and I didn't know what to say, I didn't know what to tell them. And I always say you just go back to validation, you validate their feelings, you validate their emotions, and you just mirror back exactly what you're saying you mirror back to them what they say and just be really fully present. And just hold space like because I always say like, I can't fix anyone, same as you like, even if you pulled them over, you know, they came back to the other side. You're not fixing you're not saving anyone. I always say what it feels like I do in my job is I hold space. And I bear witness and I am just present to your pain and your story and I validate your experience. But in the moment because what you have dealt with is so critical moments. What do you say is like so your your favorite three, so maybe we narrow down to that so people who are listening, if they encounter someone either who's suicidal or He's just having a really low day. What are your you've kind of alluded to it earlier, I think by saying the active listening stuff, but what would you say are your three kind of do this? steps here's here's three that would really help someone who's suffering and going through some stuff. If you're there. Beyond honored that you get to be part of this to help someone, but you said that you said one of them there is to validate to validate what you're going through simply by listening shutting your mouth because we all talk too much. I shut up, shut up. But to say, Wow, that sounds really tough. You just validated them that is that has a lot of weight to normalize, what they're going through. You know what, because people in my opinion, people who get to this spot to where they're suicidal, they think they're the only ones going through this, nobody else has gone all through this and they have no way out to come up with something like you Know what? Wow, that sounds really tough. You know? If anybody was going through all those different things you are they they probably be thinking about suicide or that would have crossed their mind. I think that's a normal feeling to validate and to normalize what they're going in. Man is huge. Yeah. And then and then to let them know that you're there for them. Mm hmm. I'm here for you. If it's a friend, a colleague, you have my phone number, you can call me 24 hours a day. If I can't pick up right then I will as soon as I can. That way they know you're in your corner and you explain things to them. You know what, maybe people that are going through all this would be thinking about suicide. So it's not some obscure, weird thought. Doesn't mean right or wrong. It's it's what's going on. It's how we feel. Let's get some help for that. Mm hmm. But to validate to normalize and to be there for them. Yeah, that'll go a long way. Yeah. Yeah. It sounds I think it sounds like So simple, but it is so powerful. And you can see it to like, you know, when you look in someone's eyes and you start validating them, especially people who maybe have never experienced much validation in their life, as soon as they start to feel it, you can almost like see them soften and just see them. Just ease like you can just see their body relaxed, like just feeling safe, I guess that they're feeling safe in the presence of another person. Right? What was that like for you then with the ones that you did? The ones that did jump? Because I know, as a clinician, like, we definitely hold a lot of responsibility. And a lot of you know, blame that a lot of clinicians and anyone can even if you're not a clinician, but in a professional sense if you lose a family member or whatever to blame yourself and think I could have done more. This is my fault. What like so was the first one when you lost the first person to the last one. What did you kind of learn through that period of how you take it on? Don't take it on blame yourself. Don't blame yourself like what were sort of the dialogues in your head after that happened. There is a lot of blame. There's though what could I have done better? But I want to go back on that and and rethink this and go, Okay, well, maybe what could what could I have done different? Mm hmm. But also we help so many more than actually do do that act. So that helps us. But that is in there. And we think you know, what the big kicker is, they make the call. I was different than I did the best that I could. The time that I was there. That's how I look at I did the best that I could have time when I was there. They make that final call. So I think that really helps folks. Mm hmm. You know, it's always gonna be there is Yeah, what can I learn now? It starts affecting me in my sleep. And I'm having a very difficult time through the days, I'm going to get some help. And that's, that's what's the bad part is that's why we lose a lot of officers and firemen and mental health professionals in, in the States, suicide is still going up traffic accident fatalities are going down murder rates going down, but the suicide rate is going up. We have a lot of work to do. We really do. Mm hmm. But I think that, you know, knowing this is the best that I could do with this with the knowledge that I had the training that I had, and the knowledge I gained from that person. They made that call. Yeah, I totally agree with you. I always say the line that I always say to, especially clients who've lost a family member to suicide. The line that I love is you made the best decision at the time with the information that you had. And so if you chose to not answer your call, the night that they did it or whatever that you do In the answer your phone that night, and then you blame yourself that if I take in the call, I could have talked them out of it or whatever. And you didn't know that, you know, you made the best decision at the time with the information. They haven't given yourself that grace that you're not, you know, psychic, and you knew it was going to happen just on that when you just mentioned, you know, law enforcement and other people who it takes at all and they end up possibly trying to hurt themselves. What did you notice in terms of the statistics of what percentage and ratio were men and women of the folks that you spoke to on the bridge? Did you notice that there was a larger percentage of men or women are older or younger was there? Yeah. Is there a demographic that stuck out to you? Yeah, the vast majority white males. I would say 35 Plus, years ago, now it's getting younger. They're getting younger and younger nowadays. I think the social media has a lot to do with it. I really do. But it's kind of almost the same demographics as we see in the United States, the 54 to 65 ish, folks. But white males. Yeah. Yeah. And what does that make you want to do then with, you know, with men's mental health because whenever I get a new client, that's a man, I'm always just, like, thrilled because I'm just so excited that they took that step to get help, and didn't wait till it was too late. But what like, does this make you after seeing like so many people in pain? I mean, I would imagine that's part of why you do all the public speaking you do is to bring awareness and and to raise the stigma and stuff but what has that shifted for you? Or how has it How has that impacted you? I guess, seeing that particular demographic and being in that demographic, I mean, not 35 but being in that But being in that demographic and connecting with that have you know the shame that comes with reaching out for help? And I don't know Yeah, what how does that how did that impact you? For what it took me years to go and seek help for for my own diagnosis of depression and seen having my own son who he is 19 now when he was 14 was suicidal, and going through that with him to get help, and it was it was pretty crappy to be honest with you. For him how it went through because the the clinician did not do things right in my opinion, you know, he he assumed after speaking with for with Kevin for 1015 minutes, that he was not suicidal. So instead of asking him instead of validating and normalizing what's going on with him, he just came out and said, well, you're not suicidal, right? Horrible, horrible, but I find this time and time again. places his his many clinicians are not trained in suicide. So I, you know, when you're talking to collisions, you say that some of them get all riled up or Who do you think you I'm telling you, this is the truth. And, and in speaking with with many, many of them, it's still I don't know if there's any states in the union that require suicide assessment training a couple, but who's getting better? Most of the folks I get to talk to have and do go, they don't care, but they are getting that training. So it is a turnaround. But just to get out there, and it's one of the big reasons I left the patrol was, I was asked to come out and start speaking at places. I'm not a speaker, a traffic cop by yourself in uncomfortable situations. 20 foot tall on stage. But it is difficult, but yeah, I put a lot of effort into this. I study a lot. I learned a lot I still negotiator conferences. I get this opportunity now to come out and speak to folks. And I want to give them the best knowledge that I can ever growing. So if they were to talk to a loved one or their friend or whatever else, they could have the best info they can get to help that individual to get them through this dark time. So if I'm allowed to do that, and I mean, what what I'm honored to be able to talk about it, it's horrible that we have to, yeah, if we don't, we're gonna lose more people. So I take that very, very seriously. And it weighs heavy on me. I used to be six, five, and now I'm like, five, nine. But if we don't get out there and start talking about this, we're gonna lose more and more people. And look what's going on now. You know, there's, unfortunately, I think we're gonna have even more suicides. Yeah. So. Yeah, the helplessness I think that everyone is feeling right now and then the trauma that comes with that. Yeah, because we're all literally helpless in so many ways, but then People who have already a helpless situation, either in their living environment or their financial circumstance or their relationships or whatever, it's just I feel like COVID is just sort of like a vise just sort of squishing people tighter and tighter and tighter. And I think that's why people get to that point of suicide is the pain is just so intense. And that's often one of the questions I asked suicidal clients is, can you help me see where you're at? Kind of and in my mind, I'm doing like a risk assessment. But what I say is, do you want the pain to stop? Or do you want to die? And most of the time, people will say, I just want the pain to stop and then I'm like, okay, I still gotcha. Because then we can, we can work on that we can figure things out. We can we can figure out ways to make the pain stop. But when they say no, I just, I want to die. Then it's like, oh, okay, that's, you know, alarm bells. That's the concerning response. But, and, and that's what a coalition told me what you're telling me here. Fantastic. What a way to talk around things. We don't have to say, well, you're not suicidal I, there's ways around that to still get to that point. Yes, yeah. And they end and I want to really get off of this on board where people say, especially younger kids, we don't want to talk about suicide or mentioned the word suicide because it'll put it in their head. No, you are not going to put it in their head. And let's make that clear. And let's say, Oh, my god, yes, I've had so many conversations with parents, like of adolescents that I've worked with that are depressed and suicidal and the parents will be like, I don't want to ask them directly because I don't want to put the concept in their head and I'm like, Dude, it's already in their head. They are thinking about it constantly. You mentioning it. It's just bringing the elephant out of the corner of the room and making them feel seen when you don't talk about about it. You're compounding the shame and compounding the I am not okay. And I'm not, you know, accepted if anyone knew that I was thinking these things like no call it out. How are you going to do it? Tell me what are your plans? When why how like getting Tell me everything about it and then it's like, oh, it's it's not in the darkness anymore. You're bringing it into the light. And then think about it the other way. What if you didn't talk about it? And you lost your teenager to suicide? Totally. You're gonna live with that the rest of your life. I hate to say that. It's true. Totally. I just, I've just seen it too many. Yeah, we had one last year in my hometown of Novato. 17 years old lost his life to suicide. Now that the parents are all we don't do anything wrong. It's just yeah, it's brilliant. It's still their act. They did it. Yes. You know, the, the there's a family that you mentioned in the TED talk that I wanted to touch on that thought was quite interesting. The one that sort of reached out to you afterwards and kind of wanted to make sure that you were okay. Can you share a little bit about either that family or other families that when the person was successful in the suicide, what that then how many? Like, how did the families get in touch with you? Like, I'm assuming you have to write a report and then they see your name or something or like, how do you guys actually match up? And then what is that first conversation like and yeah, so typically, what happens is if we lose someone, the Coast Guard is right there. We call them out when we're doing these. So they're right there in case that person does jump, they pick up the body, they take it over to the docks, we go down and and then we wait for the corner. Now, here's another one for law enforcement. If anyone is listening, just the other side, shoot here. If you lose someone to suicide, you are now off the case. If you have enough people to handle it. You're done. You're not witness. Don't go see that body. Because we look at it like a failure. I don't care how what do you think of somebody else go do it. We are now with this. Yes. So getting back to that when the coroner gets there, they take charge of that individual. And we're done with it. We write a report. Generally the coroner will make the notification. Now with Mr. Mrs. Garber. They were in New Jersey. I lost their son Jason after speaking with this brilliant young man for an hour. So I thought the corner is not going to contact them until they get a good idea on him, which may be a day or two, I'm not sure. So I made the call that night out to New Jersey and spoke with the parents. And really brutal, extremely brutal and what I was going to do, what I wanted to do was call the local police department and have them make an in person notification. Jason, the young man that jumped had actually sent out an email saying what he was going due on the reason and went out the time that he was on the bridge, so when I called the local police department out there, the local PD, Jason's father was already at the PD at the police department. So they made notification there. And I spoke to Mr. Garber on the phone. And I'm fairly emotional and it was a mess. And I will tell folks, another thing I would tell law enforcement or is in this if you handled that case, let somebody else talk to the family. And it made them Briggs you don't know you, you know suck it up, Buttercup and all this I'm telling you because dude, I've Yeah, I was there whenever I've done all these macho things. Yeah. As a human being a total if you care. If you were a good negotiator, this is going to affect you. We don't want affecting you for the rest of your life. Certainly, but, but if you don't have some caring and empathy, you're not going to turn it over here. Totally and to say that it doesn't impact you is is scary. That's your sociopath, because we are not a Robocop. Yeah, exactly. And that's what I always think like, you can't hear these stories and you can't have these experiences and it not impact you. It should impact you like it should make you cry. It should make you think about them constantly. Like that is being human. You know, and I will put it right back to you. Because when these folks are four feet from you, probably six feet now. Yeah. Talking to you. Yeah, the only difference between what I didn't do did is we were at the same. Yes, you are replaying everything in your mind. And you're seeing what's occurring. So you're thinner. It is the same thing, man. Mine's a little more danger that could happen right now. Yeah, yeah. It's the same. Yeah, folks, take away that vicarious trauma. totally true. Yeah, totally. So I spoke to Mr. Garber that evening, and it didn't you know it as well as it could be, but he knew I was upset. He never blamed me. I guess he's a large man. He's a big guy and a big boy. And then he went home and told his wife and they call me back at the office, and I could hear her scream in the background. And it was just brutal. You know, I mean, the next day when I went back to my office, we agreed to speak to that the following day, and I had a crappy night, of course, went back and I started my shift at 2pm for swing shift. I got to the opposite Sergeant brings you a phone call. So I thought, here we go. I'm trying to get emotionally cool for this. Mm hmm. And I get on the phone and it turns out to be their family rabbi, and they're back in New Jersey are talking to him and very nice, man. And he goes, Kevin, you want to know why I'm calling you? are you sir? He goes, the family's worried about you. I got Jeez, I lost it on the phone that wasn't they lost their kid. But me. Oh my god, this is too much. So yeah, you know. Wow, talk about full circle and people caring for each other. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, he just lost his life to suicide and he was brilliant. It was so interesting to speak to. It's just, you just take it the other people that you have lost. Did you ever get in touch with their families? Or was and the guard was the only one that that you kind of had a relationship I guess with or did they did anyone else reach out? Oh really person and I reached out to them but it's a little bit of a story. Okay, but I don't. And I don't recommend officers to do so. Because we want those people to get past this day. Tell me that isn't the darkest day they've had seriously so I don't want them to see me sight smell sound whatever. Yeah, can be a trigger for anything else. And it's actually none of my business. I hope you succeed. is all I can say. It's my business. What happens to them? I hope things go well. Yeah, but I was asked by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to receive this lifesavers award, but they wanted somebody who I'd saved about. Yeah. Somebody I'd save to present the award. And this is at the Lincoln Center in New York City. super high end stuff. Wow. One I didn't want to go. I don't like that. So just let me be in my corner. Yeah. But they went through my mic, Lieutenant and Captain, I got everybody involved. So now I got to do it. And they kept asking me, Is there somebody you saved? We could have come on. And I didn't want to know, I know. Yeah. Yeah. And I had a letter from a gentleman I spoke with years prior, named Kevin Bertha. And there's actually a photo out there that people could could look up and they'll see you as an African American man over the rail and I'm talking with him on the bridge. scandal, a little bitty pipe about that big so that I beam parallels the bridge except for around the two towers. And around the two towers is just this little bitty pipe about this big and he's standing on that for an hour and a half while I'm speaking with water And on the other side has nothing to do 20 feet down. But I spoke with him and he did finally come back over. So it was some years later. And I had a letter from his mother that she had written to me a couple of weeks after the event. So I had that letter. Yeah. And I said, You know what, I will go over to Oakland, and see if she still lives there and go through her to see if you'd like to meet with me. So I went over there reached out to her. And once she figured out who I was, give me a big hug. And I did not see him until we met in New York. Wow, I think this was 2014 when this happened, I think what? So maybe it was your late 2013 or 2000. Yeah. So we meet and was really, really cool. And actually, we, he said that his second rebirth when he said because he hated that photo of him over that rail, showing a black man and a very, very weak point. Living in Oakland. You don't When we Yes, very. Yeah. So after we both went up on stage and spoke, and after he spoke, he got a standing ovation. And he said that just showed him there that he could use that photo in his experiences to help others. So to speak on stage from time to time, and it's so much fun. There's no ego. We make it about the dance. Yeah, bring to them. And it's really, really cool. So we work together. Oh, my gosh, that would be amazing. We crossed so many barriers. Yeah, and it's a lot of fun. Yeah. Wow. did not reach out to people. Yeah, yeah. And I handled about four to six cases a month for about 10 years. A lot of people. Unfortunately, it's no claim to fame or anything. Yeah. Yeah. And what do you do for yourself in the moment? I know sometimes like if i if i Client having a panic attack with me in front of me or if we're talking about a trauma, and they start to get really distressed as they start to like think about it, I have some things like that I do for myself I do like belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and really just put my feet like I even will sit up like this and put my feet firmly on the floor. So I'm just very grounded and just kind of get myself very present and just still is kind of the what I say in my head is just be here, just be here and just focusing on my presence and not what am I going to say next which is focusing and just going and getting really still. What did you do in those moments when you were opposites? such intense and extreme crisis what would you do or say in your in your body and in your mind to center and to get through it? One thing I would do with folks is after we were speaking for a while, because I think in my opinion that they have like the horse like the blinders on and baby Try to slow my speech down a lot. Cuz I'm thinking so many things are coming on one, they're looking out at the water and they got so many things going on in their head. And then you hear this other guy you've never seen before thrown a bunch of stuff at you. Yeah. So I'm kind of thinking about them. And I see Oh, my God, he's looking out the water, she's looking out the water. But if I get their attention for some time, and then go, you know what, I need to take a break. I don't want to give you a break. But I'm only going to stick a step some steps back. If you promise me not to do anything before I come back up here. And there's a whole lot if they say, Yes, I'm giving just, it's just their verbal promise, so to speak. I'm going to walk back about 10 feet and try not to look their way. A lot of times I'm trying to see if they look and stare at me out the water because that's a bad time. But for me, it gives me time. All right. I can take some bigger breaths. I can try to slow down more. What's some information that I have that I might be able to use? What am I missing? Can I talk to another officer and say what do you think? Did you hear any of this because I like to do these solo. And it doesn't have to be Kevin Briggs, I don't care who is if I'm building that rapport, I'm gonna get somebody else in when I start to make it the Kevin Briggs show was when I blew it. I don't want that. I don't know if I can if we have people available. But I'll take a step back for a few minutes. And like you did, you know, just take some big breaths and let's look around a bit stretch your neck out, look around. It's not just both it's everything how's this day and what's going on? So and then get their permission to go back up and try to make that connection again? Hey, is it okay if I come back up? So I'm still connected and I even though I may be going through a whole lot of stuff on the inside, I did get some breasts in I did. Look around away from this. Maybe a smile that cool there is people having a good day out here. But that's that's for that and then at home. You know, I've had two panic attacks. I never even knew what they were. I had no meaning that was oh my god. Did they hit hard? Yeah. One was on an airplane. Oh, no, it was terrible. absolutely terrible. But I studied a budget I learned about it. I haven't had one since it's been probably at least two years or so. Well, oh, I had within a year of each other, and I didn't care. You think you're gonna die? It's the worst feeling ever. Yeah, I was sweating. That was Yeah, just sitting down. And it's so hard to because you don't know what it is. You know? And yeah, so many people present like at the ER, with what they think is a heart attack. And then they're like, Well, I was having a panic attack. And everything was fine. I was going home from presentation it was I wasn't nervous going to something. Yeah, reason for I just came up on me. Hmm. But that breathing really helps. And what do you mean daily, that little dog on the path there, you know Yeah, Woody. I'm always big on that is Yeah, what are you doing for yourself? Yeah, you know, self care is selfish. So that's important. I think how can we help others? How can we give them our best if we're not at our best? Totally agree it's the best that we can be Yeah, that's it I can be with a big I'm yeah, I'm god I'm so with you on that. Because I, the analogy I always use is like a cup. Like you have to fill your cup. Because then the excess is what spills over into other people into your kids and to your partner to your friends. You have to fill up your cup first and that through self care and yeah, it's not selfish. It's how you help others is by filling your cup up. Right. Exactly. Yeah. I have so enjoyed speaking to you today. I would love to do it again, because I've just got such a insight I guess into and I think a lot of the things that you shared earlier. really practical and helpful for people when they because we all encounter people who are suffering, you know, we all encounter people who are struggling. So just giving people the kind of scripts and tools to how to help is awesome. Do you have any kind of closing thoughts on what your, you know, like so the podcast is titled, you know, tell the others and it's, you know, things that have shaped you personally professionally, that you kind of have learned that you go, man, I just want to tell the others about this so that either they don't have to suffer, they don't know whatever, but what would what would be your, your nuggets of like your legacy, I guess of the things that you want to really impart to people. What comes to mind is is my mantra for one is listen to understand those three words that mean a lot, but there's so many things around that. Listen, to understand what is going on, not to reply, not to judge, but to be able to take Everything in and if you were having a conversation with someone one of these high end conversations where you think somebody may be suicidal, maybe they're not not everybody suicide, we know that maybe they're just going through a tough time. But do this conversation somewhere where they are comfortable not in the coffee shop? Because think about it if it was you, a, you know, I've been noticing all these different things, you're not going to do something stupid or you know, think about if it was you would you want somebody to come up and say, Hey, can we have a chat tonight? You know, are you home? Can I come over there? Whether it's a kid and you do it in their bedroom, whatever that may be, but to be there for them and say, You know what, I want to let you know I'm here for you. Have you been having thoughts of suicide if it gets to that? beause now I'm probably won't even get to that. But I just want to know that I'm here for you know, have you been having thoughts of suicide? Now? Yes, whatever that may be. Sometime then people are gonna say no, a lot and actually they weren't thinking about the talk. Yeah, just to be there. So you know what, I just want to let you know, man it, it appears and it looks like you've been going through some struggles here for you. So listen to understand what's going on. Yeah. Because that I think would be a big thing with the bridge of that the people who are on the bridge feel like I don't have anyone and that you were then that person you were the one who said, I'm here for you Even though you were a stranger, but it was just that one person who said I'm here for you. And that was the difference I guess between life and death for a lot of those folks and that Exactly. That's the biggest thing is being there for that individual. Now, why did it take to come up to what I call this stage four cancer of a Bridgette time? Yeah, that's what Kevin Garcia is supposed to go and check out that photo. I wish I had it printed out so I can show you. Yeah, yeah. But I'll link to it in the show notes. I'll put it in the show notes only to it. Yeah, we'll see him. That gentleman came back over after an hour and a half of me speaking with him. And the other thing, you'll see me standing above him looking down. Generally I do not do that I want to get at eye level or below them. So we're looking like this. But he was about to come back over then I wanted to help him come back. But I asked him as I did, every single person that I spoke to, once I started getting more knowledge is when they when he came back over that rail, I said, Kevin congratulated him and I said, What did I do that helped the situation? And what did I do that wasn't so good, that hurt the situation? And it took me a few seconds, and he said, You let me speak. And you listened to exactly what you just said, you know, allow folks to talk. That's all this guy wanted to do was to talk about this. And I focused on what was meaningful to him, which was his child. Kind of how profound is that? Yeah, just listening. People underestimate training in the world. But if I'm not listening, there's no any good. Totally, totally. Thank you. So much for your time. And thank you so much for sharing your journey, your personal journey, your professional journey. I've found this absolutely. I don't know, comforting. And there's something cool about knowing people like you exists and have been in law enforcement, you know, and knowing that, you know, you were there patrolling for such a long time and looking after people. Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for being here. I appreciate your time. It was an absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me. A lot of fun. Thanks. Transcribed by https://otter.ai