Group photo in front of Santa Barbara Police Department. (Courtesy photo)

Author Sonja Wasden came to the Santa Barbara Police Department recently to express her gratitude to law enforcement officers for the positive role they have played in her life.

She acknowledges the stressors and mental health strain of the career. She is an adamant supporter of mental health services for officers, as well as members of the community who are suffering from mental health conditions.
Wasden is on a tour of 50 states, visiting law enforcement agencies and local libraries throughout the country, discussing her struggles with depression, mania, and suicide.

“We are here at the Police Department to thank law enforcement officers for all that they do, because they have been a support for my family, and to let them know their mental health matters also,” Wasden said. “Officers put their lives on the line, their mental health on the line, and I just want officers and all first responders to know we appreciate all that they do for us.”
Officer Craig Burleigh, a member of the Joint Co-Response Team, partnered with a clinician from Santa Barbara County Behavioral Wellness, welcomed Wasden on the front steps of the Police Department.

Burleigh has been a member of the Co-Response Team for the last year, and works with members of the community who are in crisis or suffering from mental health issues. The team focuses on providing mental health services for those in need or in crisis, prior to law enforcement interaction.

“It was an honor to meet Sonja and for her to share her personal story with us,” Burleigh said.

The Santa Barbara Police Department also has the At-Ease Program, which offers support to first responders during times of need. The program provides support for those who protect and serve the public. Support programs include Peer-to-Peer support, and psychological and spiritual counseling.

Trainings have been conducted at local first responder agencies regarding the effects, care, and prevention of stress related injuries.

“We thank you for sharing your story with us and greatly appreciate you coming to the Santa Barbara Police Department to personally thank our officers and professional staff for all that they do,” said Chief Bernard Melekian.

“Statistically, for every one line-of-duty death, there are tragically five to seven officers that take their own lives every year, the issues surrounding wellness and mental health has been a priority of the Santa Barbara Police Department and a personal priority of mine,” he said.