The Impact of Listening: Kevin Berthia (Full Transcript)

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.

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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?”

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