It gave Kevin perspective on some other things, too: "I needed to realize that succeeding can be quite different in how you approach it. If I have a house and clothes, food on the table, a car, and I can pay my bills, well ... I used to think, 'Oh, man, I'm struggling to make these payments.' But then you look at somebody who I engaged with, they may have absolutely nothing. They've been struggling and trying and trying, but they don't have anything. So I really do have a lot to be thankful for here."
Kevin is an amazing guy, whose work is infinitely more valuable to society than, say, the time we spent six months trying to teach dogs to play Mario Kart. But he has to be allowed his flaws, the same as the people out there on that ledge. That's kind of the point: There's no real difference between them.
But bad circumstances and a railing.
There Is Work To Be Done
The way society thinks about suicide has drastically improved since Kevin first started working. For starters, there's now training in place, so that future Kevins don't have to "wing" such a dire situation.
"It's getting a lot better. You used to not be able to even talk about it. You would hear committed suicide, and now that's slowly going by the wayside, we're saying 'lost their life to suicide' or something to that effect. Committed is putting a negative spin on it, like they committed a robbery. And people are a lot more open to it now. I get asked to speak at anywhere from Notre Dame to community colleges to Jewish community centers, all sorts of places. It's amazing, the folks who want to help each other out."
The Golden Gate Bridge is finally getting a suicide barrier, overcoming the opposition, which feared that the life-saving initiative might look ugly.
Golden Gate Bridge District
You know what's uglier than nets? Letting people die.
Kevin spoke with the designer and he thinks it will help (suicide is generally impulsive, and people who are prevented from jumping off the bridge rarely pursue another method). But there's more work to be done.
"I think we need to get to kids. Start early; start talking about signs and symptoms. Tell them that you're going to have a lot of stress in your life at certain times, and you might not be feeling right. We all have bad mental health days, but if that turns into a couple of weeks, there's something going on, and we need to figure it out. Mental illness is an illness. I had cancer when I turned 21, I've had three stints in my heart, I've been diagnosed with depression, and these things are all illnesses. It's going to take a long time, it's a very slow, uphill battle, but it is getting better."
Don't be afraid to talk about suicide. And if you're considering it, well, don't be a part of the most morbid tourist industry imaginable. Kevin has seen people from all over the world come to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. And it's not worth it.
Please stop ending bucket lists here.
"It's the top spot in the United States for loss of life to suicide. Some people hear about it and want to be one of the folks who jump. But there's no glory in it. You're not getting your name on a gold plaque. And it's really a nasty way to go. Talk to someone. Get some help. You have a chance for a better life."
If you need help, you can visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can learn more about Kevin and his speaking services at his website, or check out his book. Mark is on Twitter and also has a book.
For more insider perspectives on suicide, check out 5 Disturbing Things I Learned Working At A Suicide Hotline and 4 Surprising Things You Learn After Considering Suicide.
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