Suicide Prevention: 7 Lessons from 3 Kevin’s
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, an engineering marvel when it was first constructed, connects the city of San Francisco to Marin County, California. This orange monument however also has a darker side as more than 1,700 people have jumped off the bridge and killed themselves since it opened in 1937. The three Kevin’s, whose lessons we are discussing here in this post, are all related to the Golden Gate Bridge and the suicide attempt, behavior and intervention/ prevention.
7 Lessons from 3 Kevin’s
Often when we sense that a person is feeling down, we immediately start giving them advice. This also may be the case when we find out a person is having suicidal thoughts. We may feel the urge to tell this person how wonderful life is and how blessed they are and how they should count their blessings. All the while we would be the ones doing the talking, completely oblivious of the fact that the person with suicidal feelings wants to be heard and not talked to.
As Briggs patrolled the bridge that is famous/notorious for suicide, he was able to save many lives just by listening to the person at the brink of death, literally. He recalls having serious and thoughtful conversations at the bridge with the other person hanging on the edge of the bridge. Many times when these people felt heard and listened to, they made their way back and are leading normal lives now.
So, let’s learn the first and most important lesson to help someone who is feeling suicidal – JUST LISTEN to them, lend them your ears.
2. Reach out
We all lead busy lives, running from one end to another to make ends meet. When we are not running, we are busy looking at our screens to do our virtual running around or just to take our minds off the survival runs. We hardly look up or look around either way. We stuff our ears with EarPods or use headphones to cancel outside noise and get engrossed in our world even when we are outside. If we could take a break from ourselves and look around, maybe sometimes we might be able to prevent one death by suicide. Maybe we can ask the passenger sobbing next to us if they are okay. Maybe we can reach out to strangers who are silently crying for help.
Kevin Briggs saved many lives of complete strangers. Yes, it was his job and as the first responder,he was doing his job. Still, he reached out to people he barely knew. He stuck with them, struck up a conversation, and listened to them until they made their decision to give life a second chance. So, the next time a fellow passenger asks you for direction to the bridge, ask them what their plans are while pointing out the direction.
Just REACH OUT and strike up a conversation (even at the cost of being nosy)!
3. Not just Mental Illness
Berthia was diagnosed with clinical depression when he was 19. However, what we can learn from him is that the diagnosis of depression is not always the sole reason for a person’s suicidal behavior. He had been fighting depression quite successfully until his life’s circumstances became dire and broke him. The overdue hospital bill for his first daughter’s treatment, loss of a job, and the guilt for being unable to provide for his family – all these led him to a state of hopelessness.
A lot of times suicide is associated with depressive disorders. Although it could be one of the symptoms of suicidal behavior, we must be wary of other circumstantial aspects of a person’s life. If someone you know has been diagnosed with any mental illness and if they are going through difficult times either financially or in a relationship or otherwise, it would be a good idea to start a conversation with them about their mental status.
4. Certain but not certain
People with suicidal thoughts want to end their life but they are almost always uncertain about their decision. They go through a long period of indecisiveness about the right thing to do despite making their minds up about killing themselves. Asking them about their suicidal thoughts at this certain-but-not-certain period can therefore be a defining point for intervention. We can start a conversation and avert a suicide attempt.
In the video, Berthia talks about how he wished someone would stop him even when he was heading towards the Golden gate bridge to end his life.
5. Suicide is preventable
Berthia clung to the edge of the bridge standing on a cord for 92 minutes conversing with a complete stranger Kevin Briggs. Briggs and other patrolling officers rescued him and prevented one death by suicide on that fateful day. Today, Berthia is a suicide prevention advocate and travels around the country interacting with people from all walks of life spreading awareness and campaigning on suicide prevention.
Kevin Berthia is a suicide survivor who is a proof that suicide is preventable. Despite living with chronic depression and at the state of giving into hopelessness, he found his way back to life.
6. Regretting suicide
Kevin Hines actually jumped off the bridge in an attempt to kill himself. He confesses though that the moment his hands came off the rail, he regretted his decision immediately. During the fall that lasted a few seconds, he wanted to live, he wanted to survive. His lived experience of an incomplete suicide along with diagnosed Bipolar Affective Disorder has led him to become a suicide prevention activist and champion mental health issues.
He is now a best selling author of the book Cracked, Not Broke: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt, a documentary filmmaker, and a motivational speaker. He also admits that he still battles with suicidal thoughts but now he will NEVER turn those thoughts into actions, never ever.
7. The Manipulative Mind
Kevin Hines was diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder and he would go through severe depressive episodes followed by manic high. Then he started hearing voices in his head telling him to kill himself. Although he tried to ignore these voices, there came a time when the voices became louder and more consistent that he could no longer remain defiant. He was fighting his inner demon, the manipulative mind that he could no longer rationalize with until he jumped off the bridge.
Often we do not take mental illnesses seriously enough or the fact that these illnesses could push people to attempt suicide. Even with a perfect life, with loving people around, a person can display suicidal behaviors because of diagnosed/ undisguised underlying mental illnesses. So, just like we get ourselves a general physical health check ups, we must also learn to check up on our mental health. Mental health matters.
In case you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you may seek help from the following contacts(Nepal):
- Patan Hospital Helpline: 9813476123
- TUTH Hotline: 9840021600
If you are residing somewhere else, please seek help from the following suicide crisis lines(Worldwide):