‘Guardian of the Golden Gate’ star says documentary helping to raise awareness about mental illness

In December 2012, Yahoo debuted a short documentary on California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officer Kevin Briggs. The “ Guardian of the Golden Gate” profiled Briggs, who has talked down several suicidal men and women over the years who had climbed the railing of San Francisco’s famous Golden Gate bridge with the intention of taking their own lives.

In particular, the documentary focused on the story of Kevin Berthia, an young African-American man who walked back from the brink of death after he and Briggs spent hours having an intensely personal conversation.

Eight years after they first met, Briggs and Berthia had an emotional reunion at an awards ceremony honoring Briggs, who is getting set to retire from the CHP.

This Monday, the Edward R. Murrow awards are honoring the creators of the documentary, so we decided to catch up with Briggs to ask him how his life has changed since reuniting with Berthia and the attention they have both received regarding their stories.

“It’s changed dramatically,” Briggs told Yahoo in a phone interview on Saturday. “I’ve been asked to travel around the country to speak in places like Portland and Wisconsin. And in many of those stops, Kevin has joined me to tell his story.”

Briggs has also been profiled in People Magazine, Men’s Health and has even been produced by three film production companies interested in turning his story into a feature film. He’s currently working with an author on a forthcoming book that will recount his career, with a particular focus on his and Berthia’s interconnected stories.

On November 22nd, Briggs will officially retire from the CHP and says he plans to turn his focus to public speaking efforts in order to raise awareness about confronting mental illness.

“That’s the main issue of what I want to do,” Briggs said. “It’s going to be my lifetime work.”

Briggs said he and Berthia have remained in touch and are still planning a family reunion of sorts with Berthia’s mother, who was instrumental in reuniting the two men.

Along with their public speaking engagements, the pair also recently appeared before the California State Senate encouraging the state to provide training for officers to deal with individuals suffering from mental illness.

“We want to let people know that there’s help out there, help for education,” Briggs said. “There’s no training for us in that category. It’s a whole different animal.”