By Nathalie Bonney @nathaliebonney
Scroll down for the full story
Videographer / director: Adam Gray
Producer: Nathalie Bonney, Ruby Coote
Editor: Thom Johnson
Every year on 2 September, Kevin Amundson holds a party; there’s food and drink and a marquee; family and friends bring presents but it’s not a birthday celebration, it’s Kevin’s ‘miracle day’ party.
Four years ago Kevin tried to kill himself by shooting himself in the head. Doctors gave Kevin a 50 percent chance of survival. Even when they knew he wouldn’t die they still predicted Kevin would have mobility and speech problems for the rest of his life; but again Kevin surprised everyone by learning to walk and talk again.
Apart from a scar running through his hairline, to look at Kevin it would be hard to believe just four years earlier he had blasted a bullet through his face. Aside from his physical recovery, Kevin’s suicide attempt also led to him finally receiving an official diagnosis and treatment for depression.
The 24-year-old told Barcroft TV: “Now that I know that I have major depression, it’s helped a lot being able to realise that.
“I don’t take anything for granted anymore. It’s the little things that didn’t matter before that I just pick up on now.
“It means something to be able to say: ‘I survived the suicide attempt and I’m still here’.”
Kevin, from Montgomery, Minnesota, says he had never previously thought about taking his own life.
He said: “Growing up, I did not think of myself as somebody with depression. I knew people and I had friends who I knew were diagnosed with depression but I never thought I was depressed. I would say that I did have a history of depression and anxiety and never knew about it.
“Prior to the attempt, I had not thought about attempting suicide.”
An emotional break up with his girlfriend at the time provoked an extreme reaction that can only be explained with the later knowledge of Kevin’s diagnosed depression.
Driving home from work and in the space of a 45-minute car journey, Kevin came to the startling conclusion he would be better off dead. After picking up his rifle, Kevin drove to the Twin Lakes pier, as it’s known locally; the spot was somewhere he would come fishing with his friends.
Kevin said: “When I first got to the lake I was still having a mental battle with myself as to whether or not I really wanted to do this.”
“Once I made the decision that I was going to kill myself I mostly felt relief because I had been hurting for so long and I felt like such a burden to so many people. It was about 95 percent just relief of the fact that I was going to just disappear but in the back of my mind there was still that 5 percent.”
It was a mild day and Kevin remembers the “sky was blue” and the water “still as glass.” As he got out of the car, Kevin noticed a grandmother with two grandchildren fishing on the pier.
He said: “I just walked out on the pier and I talked to them for maybe three minutes, they were packing up their gear as I got there and they left and I waited till the dust settled from their car driving away and then I went back to my truck and got the rifle out.”
Along with his hunting rifle, Kevin took his phone with him, typing out a text for his parents ‘I love you’ a handful of times.
Kevin: “I remember that the last thing that went through my head was whether or not I should send my parents a text that said that I love them and I decided that I didn’t want to because that would make them feel guilty.”
Kevin planned to call 911 then immediately shoot himself, so that emergency services would pick up his body.
“The 911 operator on the other end of the line tried to talk me out of it. And then I hung up the phone, I sat down and then pulled the trigger.
“Immediately afterwards my eyesight was black, my ears couldn’t hear anything but I just remember thinking to myself ‘holy crap, I just shot myself’ over and over again.”
Parents Dave and Amy received the devastating news that not only was their son in hospital but that he had tried to end his own life.
Amy said: “When we first got to the hospital the doctors told us that the first five days there was a 50-50 chance Kevin would survive and they also told us that if he did survive it would be highly unlikely that he would have any use of his right side of his body and the majority of the bullet was lodged in the speech centre of his brain. So they said there is a very good chance he would not be able to speak and possibly not be able to process.”
For nine days, Kevin was in a medically induced coma. After he woke up, in order to relieve the pressure of his brain swelling, doctors had to cut the bone flap from Kevin’s skull. For three and a half months one side of his head was concave.
Kevin said: “Before my bone flap got put back in, I would itch it and I would tell people that I could feel my brain.”
All that can bee seen of the surgery now is white scar lines running through Kevin’s hairline.
Miraculously Kevin didn’t need any kind of reconstructive surgery and while his recovery is not 100 percent - it is considerably close to it. He no longer has a sense of smell and his hearing and memory have been effected.
He said: “I do still have depression. Its probably not something I will never outgrow or get away from.”
Rather than hide his mental health issues, Kevin hopes telling his story and being open about his struggles with depression will encourage others, in particular men, to do the same.
He said: “I strongly believe that depression in males is taboo. We always feel like we have to be strong, and to me now after my attempt being strong no longer means hiding it. Being strong now means being a man and finding help and reaching out to people.”