Full text of suicide prevention advocate Kevin Berthia’s talk: The Impact of Listening at TEDxUCDavisSF conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Kevin Berthia – Suicide survivor
How is everybody doing?
Let me first say how grateful I am to be here today, and let me say how honored I am to be in your presence.
My name is Kevin Berthia, and I am a grateful survivor.
Hal Lindsey said that:
“A man can live for about forty days without food, three days without water, eight minutes without air, but for just one second without hope.”
Listen to what I say; one second without hope.
I was diagnosed with a congenital mental depression disorder at age 19, but my battle with mental depression started as early as age five. Early in my childhood, I felt like I was the only one who grew up or lived without any type of happiness or hope when they woke up.
It was difficult for me when I grew up to cope with different things. I felt like I was different; I felt like I wasn’t normal. But I knew I had to do everything possible to look and feel as normal as I could.
Where I live, your reputation is everything. So I had to do whatever it took to look and feel as normal as I could look, no matter how I felt on the inside.
Everything changed for me in 2002, two years after I graduated high school. This is when I had my first real nervous breakdown. I was hospitalized. I remember coming home from the hospital, and I told myself, “I will never talk about anything that got me hospitalized.” I didn’t believe anything that the doctors told me.
Depressed? I didn’t even know what depression was; I didn’t know what depression meant. I knew I didn’t have it; I knew I was normal, and I was fine.
In my eyes, that day that I had a nervous breakdown… I’d just simply had a bad day. Everything was okay. I did everything possible to tell myself that I was normal; that I felt normal, that I acted normal.
2002 summer changed everything for me. That mental breakdown caused me to look at myself with a totally different eye than I have ever looked at before. I was defeated, I was depressed, I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t even able to understand with the things that I was going through.
How could I be so unhappy? How could I be so depressed? How could I have the weight of the world on me already so early in life?
Six months after my 21st birthday, I welcomed my first child into the world. [Sanaya Amar]; she was everything to me. It was the happiest and saddest day of my life. It was the happiest day because as a father, watching your first child come into the world is the greatest feeling that you could ever imagine.
But to watch her come out two and a half months early, premature, two pounds and only three ounces, I could fit her in the palm of my hands. This was overwhelming.
The next time I saw my daughter, she was in a glass incubator, with tubes running off through in and out of her mouth. She needed one to breathe, she needed one to eat.
As a father, I felt like a failure because my baby girl was going through so much, so early in life. It was overwhelming for me. For the next eight weeks, I went up there every single day. And every single day I went up there and looked in that box and I said, “I wish it was me in that glass, and not her. Why does she have to go through so much, so early in life?”
I wanted her just to get better. I wanted her to eat right, just so that doctors could release her and send her home. That’s all I wanted. I wanted her home so I could experience having the privilege of being a father for the first time.
That’s all I wanted.
I remember when she came home after those eight weeks, when they finally released her; I remember the feeling, how I felt. I remember going to the fire department and make sure they installed the car seat safely. I was the happiest father on earth. I was bringing my baby girl home.
Once I got her home, it was the greatest feeling I ever could imagine. It was everything I ever wanted. Every possible wrong thing that happened in my life was now replaced, now I was a father.
Now I had even more responsibilities. Now my responsibility was being a provider, and I wanted my child to have everything. Anything and everything that she wanted, I wanted her to have. No matter what it took, I was going to get it for her.
Three weeks after my daughter came home, I received a piece of mail in a mail that changed my life forever. This letter was a bill for my daughter’s stay. It totaled up to $225,000 for my daughter’s eight week stay at the hospital. I was overwhelmed. It was like a car had landed on my chest, it was an indescribable pain.
How could I come up with this type of money? How was I ever going to be able to come up with $225,000? I’d just got over dealing with, and still dealing with, the fact that she was born early. I am a new father, I’m excited, I’m still dealing with the emotions of that.
Now I’m having to deal with figuring out how I’m going to pay this doctor’s bill. How am I going to come up with this money in order to provide for my daughter? Impossible task in my head. Impossible task.
Three weeks went by, and I saw no hope. Things weren’t getting better.
Another two months went by, and I got even more news. More painful news. My daughter needed a hernia surgery. Not only did she have to endure all of this coming out, having to go through eight weeks in an incubator, and eight weeks on a feeding tube.
Now she had to go through a hernia surgery. And then I found out that my job, that I wanted so badly to transfer from, they decided they wanted to lay me off. So now I don’t have a job, I am dealing with trying to cope with the different elements of learning how to be a new father, learning how to be a man, learning how to deal with more responsibilities.
As my responsibilities increased, so did my illness. I was unable to deal with certain things. It was difficult for me to even cope with simple things. I was overwhelmed. I stopped eating, I stopped sleeping. I stayed up all night, worrying and wondering, “How could I have got to this point? How did I get here? What do I do now?”
I blamed myself. I felt like there should be something that I could do to fix this situation. I’d been superman my whole life. I’ve always had an answer to all of my problems. No matter how depressed I’ve gotten, I have never gotten too bad, or too far to where I couldn’t snatch myself up.
It never was this bad.
But I had nothing to do. I had nothing, no way of coming out of this one this time. I owed people money; I had no way of paying it.