Military News

Monday, October 19, 2015

Golden Gate Guardian talks suicide

by Staff Sgt. Rachelle Blake
55th Wing Public Affairs

10/15/2015 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb.  -- Retired California Highway Patrol Officer Sergeant Kevin R. Briggs recently spoke to members of Team Offutt in the 557th Weather Wing Auditorium on his experiences with preventing suicide.

During his 23 years as an officer, Briggs talked to hundreds of people attempting to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, two ended in fatalities.

Now he spends his time touring and speaking to audiences on signs of suicidal risk and what to do when confronted with someone who is ready to take their life.

Some of the more obvious signs are suicide threats, previous attempts and feelings of being a burden.

"There are almost always signs," said Briggs. "I can only remember, of my years on the bridge, one case that I saw that there wasn't. A woman was driving across the bridge, stopped her car and jumped. She had just come from grocery store...and was driving home. Something had to have happened, but we never did figure it out."

He also spoke about the myths associated with suicide such as bringing the idea up will make someone more likely to go through with it.

"This is 100 percent false," Briggs said. "Usually, if you bring it up that person has probably already been thinking about it for a while."

During his presentation, Briggs spoke about people suffering from depression needing someone they are comfortable talking to who will listen.

In cases where the individual had already been diagnosed, often times they have stopped taking their medications. They are then faced with emotions such as denial, shame and avoidance.

"High emotions equal low rational thought," Briggs said. "Always keep that in mind."

Talking to them where they are comfortable, normalizing their feelings and not making any promises are some helpful tactics.

On the other side of the fence, for those having the emotions, Briggs designed a quality of life triad: self-care, professional-care and support.

He openly shared a series of life events that brought on his own depression and how he uses the triad.

At 20, he was discharged from the Army for having testicular cancer, at 26 his mom passed, at 38 he was in an on-duty collision that resulted in a traumatic brain injury, at 45 he underwent several heart surgeries and at 46 he went through a divorce.

Briggs practices transcendental meditation and Aikido for self and professional care. He also surrounds himself with family and friends for support.

"If I could leave you with anything, it's this, take care of yourself and take care of your family," Briggs said. "I hope you have a very happy and healthy life."

Briggs' presentation ended with a standing ovation.

"Officer Briggs shared a unique perspective on crisis management," said Master Sgt. Michelle Verica, 55th Comptroller Squadron first sergeant. "His story was interesting and the lessons he learned and shared are beneficial to everyone."

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