Too many people take their lives in our country every year.
These desperate acts result in so many repercussions throughout our society and hurt so many people.
This recent inspirational story caught my attention.
Someone took action — and he saved many lives from ending prematurely.
It’s a police officer’s job to protect and serve — but Kevin Briggs never thought that his job would lead him to save over 200 people from committing suicide. Briggs has been dubbed the “Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge” because of his awe-inspiring history of talking people down from the edge of the historic landmark.
One his most notable encounters was with a man named Kevin Berthia back in 2005. At the time, Berthia was a 22-year-old who was drowning in medical bills from caring for his prematurely-born infant daughter. In the midst of his depression, Berthia climbed onto the edge of the bridge and prepared to take his own life — and then he was approached by Briggs.
Briggs later said that the man seemed angry with him, but in an interview with NPR, Berthia told him otherwise.
“I was just mad at myself for being in that situation and I was embarrassed,” Berthia said. “But somehow the compassion in your voice is what allowed me to kinda let my guard down enough for us to have a conversation.
“We talked for 92 minutes about everything that I was dealing with. My daughter — her first birthday was the next month. And you made me see that if nothing else, I need to live for her.”
Out of all of Briggs’s encounters on the bridge, Berthia is one of the only people who he has stayed in contact with over the years. Briggs retired from the CHP in 2013, and he now works in suicide prevention and mental health awareness. Sometimes, Berthia even joins him for speaking events.” (source: Good News Network)
Kevin Briggs was in a unique and privileged position to save many lives on a regular basis — and he became very good at it.
But we are all called to be attentive to the reality of depression in our everyday lives.
As a chaplain at a high school in Virginia, I noticed there would always be a few kids sitting by themselves at lunch. They were usually the least social, athletic or charismatic types, but it hurt to see such little compassion and empathy from their fellow students.
Sometimes, just small acts of kindness and caring toward marginalized people can let them know they’re valued by someone else in society.
Most of us, of course, are not qualified to be therapists or counselors, on the other hand; and we need to respect the boundaries this requires. Many people struggle with deep-seated issues or personal dramas that have left them with severe wounds.
Rather than take this on and try to be heroes, we might urge these people to see professional therapists who can help them unpack complicated issues in a prudent and deliberate way.
We can also share the treasure of faith and the beauty of our relationship with God. We share so many things with our friends — recipes, diets, sports tips, stock tips, and more. But too often, we hesitate to share what people most need for peace and fulfillment.
Jesus gives us a reason to live. Jesus fills a hole in the heart that only God can fill.
Jesus brings peace and joy in a world of very loud, but often very empty, promises.
We should be grateful for all those like Kevin Briggs in this world — they are literally life savers.
Let’s also be grateful for those who help people before they reach the rail on the bridge.
And we ourselves can show others, by example, that life is truly worth living.
Fr. Michael Sliney is a Catholic priest based in the New York City area and an adviser to the Lumen Institute, a professional business group.