The topic of suicide remains an extremely uncomfortable one in American society but advocates are working to increase awareness including a recent award to a Santa Monica Police Officer.

First responders are often on the front lines of suicide prevention. Earlier this year, Sergeant Austin Brown showed his skills in a situation involving a suicidal subject holding a knife to his throat.

A man was sitting in his car parked in front of the Santa Monica Courthouse. Sgt. Brown responded to the scene and was the first negotiator to speak to the man. He was determined to talk the man out of committing a tragic action that would affect many people. He was eventually able to talk to the man into throwing the knife out of the driver’s side window and convinced him to exit the vehicle. Due to Sgt. Brown’s patience and care he was able to resolve the volatile situation without harm coming to the man.

AFSP honored Sergeant Austin Brown of the Santa Monica Police Department on Sept. 6 for exhibiting dedication to the prevention of suicide.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and National Suicide Prevention week runs from Sept. 5 through 11.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. According to AFSP.org, each year 42,773 Americans die by suicide. On average, there are 117 suicides per day. Suicide in California is the second leading cause of death for people ages 25-34 and on average one person dies by suicide every two hours in the state.

Sgt. Brown continues to use several different ways to illustrate his dedication including education, being one of the founding fathers of the DARE program as well as a class room instructor to students throughout Santa Monica. For his lifesaving work, and longstanding dedication to suicide prevention education and training, the American Foundation recognized Sgt. Brown for Suicide Prevention’s Hero Award this week.

Anne Marie Ankers, AFSP Greater Los Angeles Board Chair said, “Today we recognize a first responder who acted quickly during a moment of crisis, and who has shown a dedication to suicide prevention.”

Sgt. Brown joined the departments Crisis Negotiation Team (CNT), the position is a collateral one in the department and requires Sgt. Brown to voluntarily adjust his schedule to participate. He has been an active member for over eight years.

CNT was specifically designed to address incidents involving people in crisis such as suicidal subjects, barricaded persons, and other critical incidents. The purpose of the team is to attempt to resolve incidents using dialogue and de-escalation tactics.

Traute Winters, the Los Angeles Area Director of AFSP presented the award along with three of the board members.

She said, “This is our first year where we have a suicide prevention hero award, we received 12 nominations from LA County. The AFSP’s Hero Award is given to a first responder personnel, such as paramedics, firefighters, police officers, or other emergency service workers who have demonstrated dedication to preventing suicide through conversation, education, and providing lifesaving aid to someone in crisis. We are thankful for Sgt. Brown’s actions.”

Sgt. Brown said, “ I am lucky enough to be part of the DARE program along with the CNT department. The chief and I both stand strong behind each, as it is important to the community. The CNT is such a team effort, whether it is the negotiator or the scribe, it is constantly a team effort to get the best result from the situation. I am very grateful for the award and the opportunity.”

To bring more attention and awareness to this issue, the AFSP will be hosting the 2016 Greater Los Angeles Out of the Darkness Walk on Oct. 15, 2016 on 3rd Street Promenade at Wilshire Blvd. www.afsp.org/lawalk

 

By Marina Andalon