Prevention & Awareness

My Time with the Guardian

The Active Minds Internship Program offers college students the opportunity to work with various departments within the Active Minds National organization at our headquarters in Washington, DC.  Angela Dong, the Active Minds Speakers Bureau Fall intern, was able to realize a dream goal of interviewing one of her mental health heroes — Sgt. Kevin Briggs, Active Minds Affinity Speaker and stigma fighter. After her phone call, Angela wrote about what she learned from the experience.

Interning for the Speakers Bureau department at Active Minds, Inc., I had the rare opportunity to interview one of my idols. Having a history of depression and emotional instability, I sought out mental health advocates to validate my feelings and experiences. Kevin Briggs was one of them. Having no prior interview experience, I was extremely nervous and could feel the butterflies in my stomach as I dialed his number. But as soon as Kevin picked up the phone, his friendly and inviting conversation slowly eased me into a place of comfort…

TED speaker, Kevin Briggs, is publicly known for the heroic services that he provides to people struggling with mental illnesses. He is currently working full-time on the mental health campaign to reduce social stigma, partnering with organizations such as Active Minds. Many people know him as the Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge, but not many know about the struggles he went through to become the person that he is now.

Kevin Briggs was born in San Francisco and raised in Novato with one brother and two sisters. He had an ordinary childhood and a typical high school experience. But at the young age of 20 years old, Kevin was diagnosed with testicular cancer while in the army. Kevin struggled mentally and physically through chemotherapy, as the procedure was torturous and weakening. Although he didn’t seek help until long after, this was when Kevin was first introduced to the idea of psychotherapy, Moving forward a few years to after Kevin served his time in the army, he started to pursue a career with the Bay Area highway patrol, doing the work that he is known for today.

Kevin, without prior mental health training, recalled his first encounter with a person on the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge as frightful. He remembered feeling scared, not knowing the correct language to use or the correct questions to ask. Through two hundred encounters and many trials later, Kevin developed a system of questioning. First, Kevin shows up to the bridge dressed in casual clothes, to become more relate-able. Then he asks the questions, “What happened to you?” “What could you change?” and just listens to their story.

Kevin’s reputation as a TED speaker, made me believe that great speakers were innately talented. But in our interview, Kevin stated that one of his weaknesses was actually open communication. Kevin describes himself as an introvert and in this aspect, I can relate. Even though, I idolize Kevin Briggs as a bold and eloquent speaker, his introversion and difficulty with open communication makes me more attracted him as a genuine person. I can never picture myself in Kevin’s position but through my experience at Active Minds, I have become more vocal about my experiences with mental health struggles and an advocate for mental health education.

Kevin Briggs is a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau. Bring him to your campus or organization to speak about mental health.