A difficult life
Kevin Berthia had been through a lot by the time he reached 32 years old. He had been adopted at the age of 6 months and his adoptive parents had divorced when he was 12.
Then just weeks before the event that hit the headlines, his daughter had been born prematurely and was in an incubator for 8 weeks. Her medical bills soared to nearly $250,000.
On top of all this, he was born with a genetic major depression disorder. It was a lot to handle.
Wracked with guilt
These problems were stacking up, and the final straw was when Kevin’s daughter was born prematurely. The new father blamed himself, and he didn’t dare speak out about how he was feeling.
He felt like a failure, everything was getting on top of him. He never accepted that he had depression.
As we just mentioned, Kevin didn’t dare tell anyone how he felt.
Where he came from in Oakland, California, reputation is everything, so he pretended that everything was fine. In fact, he was tired, and couldn’t go on.
He tried to take his life
It all became too much. One day, Kevin Berthia parked up near Golden Gate Bridge, and then made his way up to the famous landmark.
He decided to jump over the railings, and his plan was to let go and fall.
The voice that saved his life
To Kevin’s surprise, he heard a voice say, “Hey, wait a minute”. This stopped him and made him grab onto the railings.
He wanted to know what this stranger had to say to him.
The voice talked him out of it
The voice was that of Officer Briggs, and in the headlining photos from the incident, you can see him talking to Kevin for a long time. They talked for 89 minutes, and the officer encouraged Kevin to talk about his problems.
He got it all out, and the officer listened without judging. Just what Kevin needed.
A new perspective
Officer Briggs helped Kevin Berthia realize the important things in life. He reminded him that his daughter needed him, and this helped bring a bit of perspective.
Kevin held his arms up, and Briggs along with another colleague helped pull him back up.
Hiding from the press
An incident at such an important landmark caught the media’s attention, and as Kevin made his way to the hospital, the press were there to take photos.
The cops covered Kevin’s face to ensure that he wasn’t recognized, and he was sent on his way to Fremont Medical Center.
Back to old habits
After a week at Fremont Medical Center, Kevin reverted to his old habits. He started hiding his emotions again.
He never talked to anyone about the bridge incident. But then, something revolutionary happened.
The face of Suicide Prevention
Though he wasn’t ready for it, the photos of him being talked off the ledge made the San Francisco Chronicle. They were actually voting on whether to install a suicide prevention barrier.
Though this was revolutionary, he was not ready for his secret to be out.
Kevin’s mom wrote a note
Kevin’s mom wrote a note to Officer Briggs, who would not normally get back in touch with someone under those circumstances.
He was touched by the note, and wanted to contact Kevin.
8 years later…
8 years later, after the day that would change his life forever, Kevin was reunited with Officer Briggs once again. Unsurprisingly, it was the first time he had faced the famous photo.
It was also the first time he looked his guardian angel in the eye. He was asked to give an award to Officer Briggs at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s lifesavers dinner in New York.
Another life-changing moment
Though Kevin was anxious and unhappy when he came to the event, he soon saw how his story changed the lives of others. The press had spoken about him being married and happy.
Although he wasn’t either those things, he felt alright for the first time in years when he realized his story changed things for those with depression.
He felt at ease
For the first time in 8 years, Kevin felt comfortable talking about the incident. He felt like they were two friends catching up after a long time.
He could finally discuss everything he was thinking and feeling that day, and not hold anything back.
It’s ok to talk about depression
Kevin soon realized that it was ok to talk about depression, and that it shouldn’t be a taboo topic.
Officer Briggs had also suffered from depression in the past, and he had learnt that it is important to get things out in the open.
His beliefs changed
After this dinner, he realized that surviving an attempted suicide could play a major role in preventing other suicides.
That’s when his life changed for the better.
A lifelong friend
Kevin says Officer Briggs saved his life twice – the first time when he was going to leap from the ledge at the Golden Gate Bridge, the second time at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s lifesavers dinner. They became lifelong friends.
A change of direction
Thanks to the compassionate voice that saved his life, and his own realizations, Kevin decided to dedicate his time to helping people suffering from depression.
He wanted to be the guardian angel that Officer Briggs was to him all that time ago.
The guardian of the bridge
Officer Briggs became known as the guardian of the Golden Gate bridge, and little did he know that he would continue to save lives – 200 lives, in fact.
Changing the mental health world
Kevin Berthia decided to launch the Kevin Berthia Foundation, changing the mental health world one step at a time.
Over the years he has shared his story with the media all over the world, and also with local and national news stations. His story even was featured on the Steve Harvey show.
One of the most iconic photos of the 21st century
As well as starring in many news outlets, this photo was named one of the top 75 most iconic photos of the 21st century, showing how it really shaped and changed lives.
But Kevin wouldn’t stop there.
Reunited with his inspiring buddy
Though Officer Briggs has now retired, he is still very good friends with Kevin Berthia, whose goal is to now save lives every day.
He offers 1:1 coaching, and allows people to make donations through the foundation’s website. He inspires crowds by his story but also his philosophy, and often speaks publicly about his struggles.
Coming to terms with his depression
Kevin Berthia told The Guardian, “I now know that depression is a part of me but not who I am”.
He now has three children and a partner that he plans on spending the rest of his life with. He finally got his happy ending!