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Zero Suicides: Peer navigators using their own life experiences to help others

KBAK/KBFX photo

Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services is employing the help of peer navigators, a special mentor for those struggling.

These peer navigators use their own life experience to help people going through the same battles they did. Most are in recovery from mental illnesses or substance abuse.

Depression, anxiety, alcoholism and homelessness can all be overwhelming. Many people go through it alone, but they don't have to.

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"Peers really do a great job of connecting with people," said Jeffery Kaya, the supervisor of the self-empowerment team at KBHRS. "Because of that level of experience that they have, they can empathize with a client who feels like nobody is listening to them."

He said peer navigation was established to ensure people don't fall through the cracks, especially those with suicidal thoughts.

"They develop that relationship in order to demonstrate to the clients that we completely understand what they're going through and that we're going to get them to the services that they need," said Kaya.

A peer navigator is more than a counselor. They're a former patient. They're not afraid to talk about suicide and want to use their experience to support you.

Jamy Garcia is the administrator for the recovery supports division at KBHRS. She has had experience with suicide attempts.

"I'm so grateful that I never completed a suicide," she said. "I would have missed a wonderful life, wonderful career, wonderful experience with my family."

Now, Garcia uses her story to save others.

"I ask people permission, you know, 'I have some experience with suicide attempts. Do you want me to tell you about it?' And ask their permission, and almost everybody does," said Garcia.

It takes just one person to listen, to care, to not judge, and that can save a life.

"No matter how bad you can feel and how severe the illness is and how long it lasts, that you can still make it through alive," said Garcia.

Peer navigators provide positive change and understanding. They create hope and let people know there is a future to look forward to.

"It's just about making a human and genuine positive connection with someone that's suffering and that you can affirm that person, validate their experience but also let them know gently that there's hope and that they're going to get better," said Garcia.

These peer navigators want to get to know you and are here to help.

To get in contact with a peer navigator, you can reach out to the Consumer Family Learning Center at (661) 868-7550.

You can also visit their website for more resources.

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