Imagine growing up believing your mother died in a car accident, only to discover years later, it was suicide; and she wanted to take you with her. This was life for Bertha Loaiza, whom at three years old fell from the San Diego Coronado Bridge while in her mother’s arms. While her mother did not survive, Bertha did, obtaining serious injuries including a cataract and brain swelling. Bertha has no recollection of the fall and discovered the true story of her mother’s passing when she was seventeen. Today, Bertha is a married mother of two and proud mental health advocate.
Bertha’s life changed on August 5, 1985 when her mother, then twenty-four year old Angelica Medina parked her car and took little Bertha with her. She then proceeded to jump off the bridge, over 200 feet. Bertha sustained injuries to the right side of her body and it is believed that her mother took most of the impact, saving her daughter from the same fate. Bertha was resuscitated while her mother could not be revived. Angelica is one of the hundreds of people who chose the bridge as their ending point in life. The army discharge with a history of depression was also in the midst of a divorce. After years of therapy, Bertha has come to terms that perhaps the reason why her mother decided to jump with her was because she was the only one who could take care of her.
Now, thirty-two years later, Bertha is a member of the Coronado San Diego Bridge Collaborative for Suicide Prevention. She advocates for barriers on the bridge to prevent additional suicides. She is also on the Board of Directors for Survivors of Suicide Loss in San Diego. Bertha will be the recipient of the Stigma Buster award at the 15th Annual NAMI San Diego Awards & Colorball next month. Be sure to follow her mental health page on Facebook!