September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and one local winery is remembering a family member lost to suicide.
Sean Stilson was a third generation Fire Captain II with the Los Angeles City Fire Department — but he was also a husband and father.
“He was the type of guy that ran his station in a way that was admired and respected but, at the same time, well-liked and actually loved,” said Deb Stilson, part-owner of Stilson Cellars in Paso Robles and the wife of the late Sean Stilson. “So he kind of had that good mix of being a great leader but also being a person.”
Deb said Sean faced a lot of stress day-to-day at his job, as many first-responders do.
“Sometimes, not even on a daily basis, but on a constant and consistent basis throughout the day, throughout a 24-hour shift,” Deb said. “There wasn’t a way for them to be able to cope with what they were approached with daily.”
Deb said now she is hoping to raise awareness about suicide prevention and mental illness because many people like Sean — firefighters or police officers — are struggling to cope with the impacts of their jobs.
So, Stilson Cellars bottled a Zinfandel, appropriately named ‘Aware.’ The artwork on the bottle honors Sean’s life.
“It’s a firefighter kneeling down. It’s our angel. That’s Sean,” Deb said.
Stilson Cellars is donating 50 percent of the profits from each bottle of ‘Aware’ to NAMI — the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“I told NAMI that we’re not just donating the money or selling this during the month of September,” Deb said. “They’re going to get the money from every bottle that we sell, no matter how long it takes.”
Deb said she is advocating for making mental health resources more accessible to everyone, especially first responders and their families.
“I actually have listed a bunch of resources on my website at Stilson Cellars so that people, in going to look for ‘Aware,’ will also see these other things that I’ve linked there.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Below is a list of mental health resources.