Through TED Talks, I’ve learned about of Kevin Briggs, a recently retired California Highway Patrol Sergeant and, in my humble opinion, a hero and an inspiration in the work of suicide prevention.

I cannot imagine how I would try to talk someone out of suicide. I would be so afraid of saying the wrong things, so afraid to fail and come face to face with suicide. Kevin Briggs has talked more than two hundred people out of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. And now that he has retired, he is still fighting the good fight.

In his TED Talk, Kevin Briggs talked about some of the people he spoke to on the Golden Gate Bridge. He spoke of Kevin Berthia, with whom he spoke on the bridge for an hour and a half. Thankfully, Kevin decided to come back over the rail of the bridge. Kevin Briggs also told the tragic story of Jason Garber. After talking to Kevin Briggs and other patrol officers about his hopelessness, Jason went off the bridge and was gone.

What was perhaps most helpful in Kevin Briggs’s TED Talk was his simple but powerful advice on how to talk to someone who is suicidal. “It’s not just the talking that you do, it’s the listening. Listen to understand. Don’t argue or blame or tell the person you know how they feel. By just being there, you may be the turning point that they need. Also, if you think someone is suicidal, don’t be afraid to confront them. One way of asking them the question is like this: ‘Others in similar circumstances have contemplated ending their life. Have you had those thoughts?’ Other signs to look for are hopelessness, helplessness, recent social withdrawal, and loss of interest in life.”

This TED Talk was entitled The Bridge Between Suicide and Life. If we are ever faced with that situation, Kevin Briggs encourages us to become that bridge. Hopefully, by simply listening to understand, we can be the bridge that helps a friend cross from suicide to life.

(This post is dedicated to a friend who was lost to suicide in 2013. Yesterday was her birthday. She is sorely missed.)