Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

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    Mental health on center stage

    Kevin Berthia, a suicide prevention advocate, urges people in need to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help. The phone number, 1–800–273–8255, is pictured next to Berthia. Photo by Toni Cervantes

    Sharing stories of survival at Suicide Awareness in the Hood event

    By Toni Cervantes

    Laney English Professor Roger Porter hosted “Suicide Awareness in the Hood” Oct. 18 in D200 featuring Kevin Berthia, a survivor of multiple suicide attempts, and Malaysia Alcorn, who grappled with suicidal tendencies for years.

    “My life was one big lie,” Berthia said. His stable childhood went into a tailspin after discovering he was adopted. It was further shattered by his parents divorce.

    He had no reason to feel depressed. He lived in the hills. He never missed a meal like some of his friends from the ‘hood. It wasn’t cool for a black man to be depressed. He wanted his family and friends to believe he was the “life of the party.” Nobody imagined he cried himself to sleep.

    Porter and Berthia were childhood friends. On March 11, 2005, Porter was in shock when he turned on the television to see Berthia teetering on the outside edge of the Golden Gate Bridge.


    Berthia’s suicide attempt made the front-page of the San Francisco Chronicle and was the lead on local television stations. His life hung in the balance for 92 minutes while California Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Briggs quietly listened to Berthia recount the crushing events that “took him to the bridge.”
    Alcorn’s trauma seemed normal to her.

    Eating Top Ramen on a daily basis and having her mother disappear for days at a time seemed normal until she was old enough to understand it was outside the law. She was removed from her house and adopted at the age of 13.

    Alcorn filled the void with food. Even at 400 pounds she felt empty inside.
    Isolating herself was a coping mechanism that drove her further into despair. “After a while, I became a stone,” she said. “I had no purpose. There was nowhere I belonged.”

    Therapy saved Maysia Alcorn’s life. She learned to start talking to people.

    She masked her pain by being the girl with the bubbly personality until the day she had a breakdown. “I would not make it to tomorrow if I didn’t ask for help today,” she said.

    Therapy and finding a facility for girls wrangling with suicide saved her life. She learned to open up, to stop pretending and to start talking to people.
    “I just say, ‘Hi, I’m Malaysia. I have anxiety. I have clinical depression, and I’ve been through a whole lot of shit.’”

    Both Berthia and Alcorn fight their depression daily, but it is a battle they are winning. They urge people wrestling with suicidal thoughts to take that first step by asking for help.

    “There is power in your testimony. There is power in your pain. There is power in what you went through if you get out and talk about it”, Berthia said
    Alcorn and Berthia agree that telling their story was the key to their survival. There are many resources available.

    A good place to start is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–8255. Free counseling and support groups are also available at Kaiser, Alta Bates and state universities.

    The message from these two survivors of suicide is unambiguous. “No matter who you are, you are not alone. There is help available.”


    Toni Cervantes is a Tower Staff Writer. Email her at sacredstonelive(at)gmail.com.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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