The man who nearly jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge — and the one who saved him 

Kevin Berthia and Kevin Briggs discuss their bond developed over the years. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
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Speakers bring focus on Suicide Prevention Month at COC 

The worst day of our lives. Almost everyone has one.  

Kevin Berthia’s brought him 220 feet above a channel of water that connects San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean on the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

“Everybody in this room has had the worst day of your life,” said Berthia. “I’m no different than anybody else in this room, I just have a picture to prove it.” 

Berthia gestured to the picture taken on March 11, 2005, projected on a screen behind him.  

Kevin Berthia discusses his experiences at COC’s Performing Arts Center on Wednesday. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

A young Black man wearing a white baggy shirt, black basketball shorts with white trim and white into black ombre sneakers, standing on a cord with his head down. That was Berthia. A California Highway Patrol officer named Sgt. Kevin Briggs looks down at him with his arms crossed on the railing. 

Berthia stepped onto the Golden Gate Bridge that day with every intention to end his life. It was one of 22 of his suicide attempts.  

Briggs spoke with Berthia for 92 minutes that day. Those 92 minutes are what saved Berthia’s life and brought him into a life of advocacy.  

“I’m a suicide survivor first. I’m an advocate for the last few years,” said Berthia to the dozens of Suicide Prevention Month attendees inside the College of the Canyons Performing Arts Center on Wednesday.  

Active Minds, a COC club that aims to reduce the stigma of mental health disorders and raise awareness of suicide prevention, brought Briggs and Berthia to the COC campus for the club’s annual Suicide Prevention Month event.  

“It’s OK to not be OK,” said Ione Jones, an Active Minds member.  

Kevin Berthia discusses his experiences at COC’s Performing Arts Center on Wednesday. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Kevin Berthia’s story  

Berthia said that 80% of the root of all of his problems was because he was adopted.  

He was adopted by a Black family. People thought they all looked alike. Berthia looked like his mom, dad and sister to the outside world. Berthia could see, and knew, that this wasn’t true.  

Mental health was not a grouping of words he ever heard growing up. He didn’t grow up with someone to show him that there is strength in weakness or, as Jones said, it to be OK for things not to be OK.  

He grew up in Oakland with a smile on his face, but was suffering on the inside.  

Masking his feelings was his protection, sticking to his routine every day so that people would think he was normal.  

School, sports and church. School, sports and church. School, sports and church became his routine of appearing to the outside that he was OK.  

“You want to see if somebody changes how are they dealing with some things?” said Berthia. “Look at their routine. You can’t go off how they look. I don’t look like the things that I’ve been through.” 

All he wanted was to fit in. Wear the right thing, say the right thing and simply be the right Kevin Berthia. 

At age 13, Berthia felt for the first time in his life he was adopted. His mom and dad had gotten a divorce. Wanting to be the man he was growing into, he went with his father.  

Berthia’s father was a compulsive gambler. At 13 Berthia had to learn how to live on his own.  

One year later marked Berthia’s first suicide attempt.  

Kevin Berthia discusses his experiences at COC’s Performing Arts Center on Wednesday. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

When school, sports and church were over, the darkness settled in. On this day at age 14, the darkness had grown, along with his ideations.  

He grabbed the car keys, got in, turned the ignition and took off.  

He knew where he was going and what he was doing.  

He drove forward into the embankment, but the guard rails stopped him.  

Up until five years ago, his mom didn’t know that this was the first time Kevin Berthia tried to take his own life.  

Everyone had thought it was just a joyride gone wrong.  

He kept up with his act of hiding how he felt internally. 

“I just kept going on and on, and acting like everything is OK,” said Berthia.  

In 11th grade his school had a motivational speaker. They asked members of the audience what they wanted to be when they grew up.  

Berthia knew what he wanted was to be dead.  

Berthia’s soccer career in high school paid off as his coach secured him a spot on the soccer team at City College of San Fransico.  

In college he met a girlfriend. This relationship was filled with them bringing out each other’s insecurities, and with constant arguing. 

One scream-fight night, Berthia grabbed a kitchen knife and ran out of the house.  

He walked away from the house until he found a spot to sit and put the knife to his throat.  

“It’s the first time in my life that I’m in control,” said Berthia.  

Berthia was taken to a psychiatric ward and for the first time at age 19 heard the word “depression.”  

In the place that would believe him about his struggles, hear his story and show him that it is OK to not be OK, he lied. He continued on his act and put his mask up.  

He passed his test to go home with flying colors.  

Kevin Berthia discusses his experiences at COC’s Performing Arts Center on Wednesday. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Berthia got out of that relationship and subsequently into another one.  

In 2003 Berthia found out his girlfriend at the time was pregnant. His daughter’s due date was June 23, 2004. She was born April 6, 2004.  

The first time he saw his daughter was through a glass incubator.  

“That’s when I died,” said Berthia.  

Berthia’s daughter stayed at the hospital for six weeks after. One week after he was home, Berthia received a hospital bill for $250,000.  

Berthia’s grandfather taught him that a man should do two things for his family – protect and provide. 

“I already messed up to protect you because she’s been fighting for her life,” said Berthia. “The provide part was something that I had working at the post office, maybe I had a casual job as something that I can bring to the table. Quarter of a million-dollar bill. I was done. I knew it was over.” 

He was unable to even buy his daughter a Christmas present for her first Christmas and could no longer see her.  

That Christmas he felt the same he had felt at 14, 17 and 19. He didn’t want to live. He did not want to live to 2004.  

But he decided to wait until after his mom’s birthday. 

“I didn’t want to die before my mom’s birthday,” said Berthia. “I didn’t want her to have a bad birthday.” 

March 11, 2005 

On March 11, 2005, Berthia drove to the Golden Gate Bridge.  

“Every door was open,” said Berthia.  

Berthia did not know any of the history behind the number of Golden Gate Bridge suicide attempts there had been. He thought he was going to be the first.  

Briggs discussed his perspective regarding not only Berthia’s experience, but other family members who encountered similar experiences. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

“I was looking for a reason not to jump,” said Berthia. “I couldn’t find it. I parked my car and I started walking and then the longest walk in my life. Fifteen minutes out there felt like five hours and I’m just trying to contemplate. I’m just walking. I’m just trying to figure out something, going through my whole life, trying to figure out something to keep me here on this Earth and I can’t. I finally get to a spot and look over the rail and when I looked over on the railing, I looked into water and for the first time I looked into water, it was the first time I liked what I saw, I saw peace. Now to you, you just see water because you’re not in a dark place. That peace looks like, Kevin, you don’t have to be a burden no more. Kevin, you don’t have to get up and be alive no more. Kevin, your family is so much better, the world is so much better. That’s what that water says to me. So your water may look like just water but my water is peace. My water is I’m tired of having to pretend. 

“I took my steps, a couple of steps back and brace myself for the impact and I knew that it was over because I had come here to do it and if anybody was gonna stop me, it was gonna be done already. I took a couple of steps back to brace myself and I knew that I was done. I literally took a couple steps back and I hosted myself over at this railing and at the time of me jumping into the air … He yells something. As he yells that I grabbed the railing and swung myself around.” 

“Kevin Berthia jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.” 

Sgt. Kevin Briggs’ Story  

On that day, March 11, 2005, Briggs had no training in crisis intervention team training like it is required now for law enforcement.  

That day Briggs was working as a CHP motorcycle officer on the Golden Gate Bridge, a job he originally wondered why people didn’t want.  

He saw Berthia jump and he shouted to stop him.  

“I have no clue what to say, how to act,” said Briggs. 

Briggs slowly approached Berthia and could quickly see behind the act Berthia had played out his entire life. Briggs was balancing on a 4-inch cord, hand inside his shirt.  

“He doesn’t care, he doesn’t care at all,” said Briggs.  

Booths regarding the support of mental health were lined up in the Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

For 92 minutes he talked to Berthia. They talked about Berthia playing soccer, his life and most importantly, his daughter.  

Berthia thanked Briggs on Wednesday for taking 92 minutes out of his day to listen.  

Those 92 minutes are what saved Kevin Berthia’s life.  

Present Day 

According to Larry Schallert, the assistant director of student health and wellness/mental health student services at COC, 38 minors committed suicide in 2020 and 33 minors committed suicide in 2021.  

Berthia and Briggs were present at COC on Wednesday to provide a voice for those who felt their voice was powerless, to advocate for life and that being not OK is OK.  

“You just have to understand that you gotta love you for being you and there are people that are here that want to help people, to push people to the forefront,” said Berthia. “You have to be a caretaker for yourself first. I need you at your best because people are at their worst.” 

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