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Battle with darkness: Santa Barbara County man talks about loss of daughter to suicide

Dhananjaya Beminwaththa

A suicide prevention walk is set for Santa Barbara County October 14 at Goleta Beach Park.

Harry and Jenny Bruell are living with pain no parents should have to endure.

"We lost our daughter in 2016 to suicide. She was 14 years old," said
the Santa Barbara man,. He said their daughter Taya was bright, energetic, and enthusiastic about her future.

"She was beautiful, fun, liked games, like reading, she wanted to be a surgeon or potentially a writer," said Bruell. "She was a brilliant writer. She was a high school student, but a couple grades ahead, and was also taking some classes at the local university."
But, the teen also had a dark side. "She also had what we believe was borderline personality disorder," said Bruell. "It was never diagnosed, so she never got the treatment that she needed, even though we tried many kinds of treatment."

Bruell says they did everything they could to help, knowing that she was capable of harming herself.

"We knew this was possible. She had been hospitalized," he said.

She was under the care of a psychologist and a psychiatrist, but she also refused treatment.

The loss of Taya was traumatic for the family. They were living in Colorado when it happened. Bruell already worked in the non-profit world, but he decided he wanted to do something to help those in crisis, as well as their families.

They moved to Santa Barbara, where he became CEO of Pathpoint, an agency which supports people with mental health issues, as well as those with developmental disabilities.

Rather than trying to put what happened in the past, he said his coping mechanism has been leaning into it, and trying to help others.
The Bruells are involved in a number of community programs which help those coping with mental health issues, as well as groups supporting those who have lost family, and friends to suicide.

He and his wife have also written a book to help others facing a similar crisis, which is available free online.
How is the family doing now?

"It's a very difficult road, and one that I don't think any parent wants to imagine," said Bruell. "It is a loss that is always with is deeply difficult. I think over time, our ability to cope has improved. But, it hasn't lessened the loss."

There's a big event in Santa Barbara County October 14 focusing on suicide prevention. It’s called the Santa Barbara Out Of The Darkness Community Walk. It seeks to raise awareness about the issue, and money for education, research, and survivor support programs.

And, for some it will also be a chance to remember those they’ve lost to suicide.

Check-in is at 9 a.m., with the walk at 10 a.m. Saturday morning at Goleta Beach Park.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.