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Suicide survivor and Santa Barbara team up to promote suicide prevention and response during National Suicide Prevention Month

SBPD Suicide Prevention Meet & Greet
Scott Sheahen / KEYT

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Five years ago Sonja Wesden found herself in a dark place. She said, "I thought my family would be better off without me. I thought this world would be better off without me. And that’s not true.”

Five years later she said she’s lucky to have survived a suicide attempt. And said she learned she just needed help through a tough part of her life.

“Pain can silence all of the love, all of the friends, all of that," said Wesden. "And all that you can see is just I have to get out of the pain, think there’s no other way but to take your life. And you’ve got to have people around you giving you that hope to just hang on one more minute, one more hour, one more day until they can get to that help.”

Tuesday morning Santa Barbara Police Department hosted a meet and greet for Wesden. She just finished a fifty State book tour promoting her book about the struggles leading up to her suicide attempt. Wesden went to all fifty States to thank police officers for their help in suicide prevention and response. Wesden said her father died by suicide. And the police were the first responders to help her family.

Wesden’s husband was born and raised in Santa Barbara. That’s why they chose to visit California last.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. If you or someone you know could use help health experts recommend calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.

Santa Barbara Police teams up with Santa Barbara County with their Crisis Intervention Team (C.I.T.). An officer responds with a mental health professional. Co-response officer, C.J. Burleigh, said SBPD officers respond to a lot of suicide prevention and response calls. They responded on Monday and were able to save a life due to a family member’s tip.

Burleigh also said the purpose of the officer is to help not arrest someone needing aid. And the officer with the mental health specialist can get there faster than without an officer.

“Myself and my partner we’ve gone through mental health training to deescalate people that are in crisis,” said Burleigh.

“The greatest vulnerability would be people who don’t have supports in place as we go through this time. Whether they’re natural supports, family, friends, people they can talk to.”

That response for help is working. Santa Barbara County’s behavioral health officer, Suzanne Grimmesey, has seen a decrease in suicides over the past two years. Asking for help or asking others if they need help goes a long way.

“The greatest vulnerability would be people who don’t have supports in place as we go through this time," said Grimmesey. "Whether they’re natural supports, family, friends, people they can talk to.”

Santa Barbara County also has a 24-hour hotline to help those with suicide prevention and response. The 24/7 Behavioral Wellness Access Line is1-888-868-1649 to access a counselor or mobile crisis resources.

Santa Barbara County is doing an anonymous survey to see how they can better help mental health problems. To take that survey in English visit here or in Spanish here.

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Scott Sheahen

Scott Sheahen is a reporter for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Scott, click here.

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