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March 11, 2005, was set to be just another day for California Highway Patrol officer Kevin Briggs. After stopping for coffee and while making his way across the Golden Gate Bridge, he saw a man attempt to take his own life. After Briggs shouted something out, the man was left holding on to a railing and standing on a small beam.
Kevin Berthia, the man on the ledge, and Briggs himself, could not have known that this moment would completely change their lives forever. After 92 minutes of conversation with Briggs, Berthia chose safety. The two wouldn’t interact again for eight years.
In 2013, Briggs was recognized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for his work and dedication to suicide prevention over many years. It was at this event that Briggs and Berthia were reunited, helping them reconnect and form a partnership that would see them travel the world to share their story and raise awareness for mental health and suicide prevention.
Today, Berthia and Briggs dedicate their lives to sharing their story, while also raising awareness for suicide prevention and working to open the conversation surrounding mental health around the world. The two were at LivingWorks’ 40th Anniversary Trainer Conference and said that they were very thankful to share their story and be a part of the event.
“Being able to come in here and partner with a company like LivingWorks is just phenomenal,” says Berthia.
“This is a family. It’s neat to see everyone reconnecting because they are from all over the world, we met people from all over the world… It also helps to reaffirm what they’re doing,” says Briggs.
Being able to trust each other and collaborate to share their story together was what initially allowed the pair to recognize that they had the potential to make a massive difference in the conversations around mental health and suicide prevention.
“It took a while for me to even believe that people wanted to hear my story. I always thought that everybody has a story, what makes me so different?” says Berthia. “Once we got the opportunity to speak together more, I realized that we got something.”
“The only reason I can do this, and hopefully do it decent, is because I believe in it,” says Briggs. “If we talk about it and ask ‘how we can help others?’ then we’re doing our job. That’s what pulls me through to be able to get on stage.”
Starting the conversation
Both Berthia and Briggs believe that the conversation surrounding mental health and suicide has changed drastically since their initial meeting in 2005. This is due, in part, to simply making an effort to converse and come up with solutions.
“We know what the problem is, it’s existed for years and years. As long as we live in the solution and come up with solution-based ideas instead of living in the problem, we can collaboratively work to bring down those numbers,” says Berthia.
“People want to talk about this more. When I was in high school, if you were talking about suicide prevention or mental health, you would have very few people in the audience,” says Briggs. “Now, they take me for who I am and for who (Berthia) is and people want to talk about this.”
Although Briggs and Berthia usually work collaboratively to tell their story, they have also made individual efforts to contribute to mental health and suicide awareness.
Berthia created the Kevin Berthia Foundation, which was created to “give those individuals that suffer in silence with both undiagnosed and diagnosed mental health conditions a voice of hope.”
“There are so many people who suffer in silence that are like me. [They] internalize things, they don’t deal with these emotions. I have to create something so people could be more in-tune with their emotions and with their feelings in order to talk about it,” says Berthia. “The future is trying to get a building one day… I want to create a place where people can talk about these things in a safe place.”
Briggs is the founder of Pivotal Points, with the goal being to “educate and speak publicly about crisis management, suicide prevention and mental health awareness.”
“This is way bigger than Kevin Briggs, this is way bigger than the California Highway Patrol. It’s important to get out and talk about this awareness,” says Briggs. “We’re at pivotal points all the time in our lives, what decision are we making and how can we make that decision better?”
Together, Berthia and Briggs are collaborating on a movie, titled 92 minutes, and are considering starting a podcast to continue to grow their story and raise awareness. Although they both recognize that growth is a productive thing, the two wish to keep their story close to them.
“I think that’s going to bring more awareness to this. Both of us want to grow… I don’t want to get to a point where others are speaking about me or my organization, because it’s so personal. I need to do it. I need to do my story, (Berthia) needs to do his story,” says Briggs.
Although Berthia and Briggs could tell their story on their own, it isn’t the same without the other Kevin there to provide support and tell their own story. When asked about what the other Kevin meant to each other Berthia said: ‘It’s everything.’
“The more and more we do this, the more we realize how important it is to have both of us there. There are certain things about the story that I will never be able to tell because of the dark place I was in. I rely on him to fill it in, and there are certain things that I learn because of him,” says Berthia. “We’re beyond the stage. We have a friendship and a bond, and we have a lot of good times together. It’s just genuine and it’s been like that every single time.”
“This is not about us. This is about what we can give to the audience. What takeaways can we give, what have we learned to show them it’s alright to talk about this?” says Briggs. “We rely on each other, and we trust in each other… We have to trust each other because we have our own separate story from that day. We both respect that, and we work together. If I had to do this over again, I would do it with him.”