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.