The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is hosting a conversation series and a fundraising walk this week in southern Santa Barbara County. 

The conversation series, Let’s Talk About Suicide, will feature a short film sharing the story of suicide survivor Anthony Rodriguez and a Q&A with the film’s director and expert panel. 

Admission is free and the event starts at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Goleta Valley Community Center, at 5679 Hollister Ave. 

“You see how people get treated and it’s not good — in the Latin culture, we get turned away or we get told ‘suck it up,’ ‘deal with it,’ ‘there’s no such thing as depression,’” said Rodriguez, who is chief of operations for the Santa Barbara Response Network.

“If you want to think about suicide then, a lot of times you’re shunned out and they don’t want anything to do with you. And it makes it very hard, especially for a lot of kids that are actually going through any type of heartache — not being able to speak up and speak out about how you feel is what damages us inside.”

Rodriguez got started in suicide prevention work around the age of 25 when he met his wife Bianca Rodriguez, who inspires him to want to help others. Rodriguez emphasizes the importance of speaking up and seeking out help.

“Sometimes all it takes, really, is just for somebody just to sit there and listen. Not hear, but actually listen,” Rodriguez said.

“And that’s such a huge part of being able to make someone feel that they’re worth it. It’s hard already to speak about how you feel because you don’t know how you’re gonna be treated. But if anyone just sits there and listens, and says, ‘okay, I hear what you’re saying, let’s work together.’ That would make a huge difference.”

Anthony Rodriguez shares his story in a film being shown Wednesday at the Goleta Valley Community Center.

Anthony Rodriguez shares his story in a film being shown Wednesday at the Goleta Valley Community Center.  (Contributed photo)

On Sunday at Leadbetter Beach in Santa Barbara, the Out of the Darkness Walk is having its sixth annual event to fundraise for suicide prevention resources through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 

The fundraiser goal of the Out of the Darkness Walk is to raise $28,000 and it had raised $10,000 as of Tuesday morning.

“To me personally, the most important thing is bringing the families together and make them realize that they’re not alone,” Rodriguez said..

“And when you go to these walks, Out of the Darkness Walks, you see such an amazing sense of belonging, that it’s okay, that there’s nothing to be afraid of. What I’ve gotten back from families is that they never thought that there are that many people who have literally been affected by suicide.”

The week of Sept. 10-16 is National Suicide Prevention Week, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 

Click here for suicide prevention information and resources that are available 24/7.  

The National Suicide Prevention Line is available 24/7 at 1.800.273.8255. 

Other free, 24-hour Santa Barbara County services are the 24-hour toll-free hotline at 1.800.400.1572 and the SAFTY (Safe Alternatives for Treating Youth) Youth Crisis Hotline at 1.888.334.2777.

Noozhawk intern Julia Lee can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.