Westeren battled depression

Widow wants to bring more awareness to suicide prevention
By: Martha Garcia, Colfax Record Editor
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National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
   1-800-273-TALK (8255)
The Trevor project (LGBTQ):
Veteran's Crisis Line:
   1-800-273-8255 (Press 1)
Placer County Mental Health Services/ Crisis Intervention:
   1-888-886-5401 Toll Free
Placer County Suicide Hotline:
   530-885-2300 (Auburn)
   916-645-8866 (Lincoln)
   916-773-3111 (Roseville)

One month after her husband’s death, a Colfax woman is stepping forward to bring awareness to suicide prevention.

Paula “Rusty” Westeren had known Ken Westeren for 12 years and the couple was married six years ago. She said her husband suffered from mental illness.

“Ken chose to take his life with his personal gun,” Westeren said. “I don’t want another family to have to go through this; I don’t want another wife to have to watch her husband kill himself.”

Westeren said her husband had been battling depression for over a decade. Unfortunately, she said, he chose not to seek help, “which to me is extremely sad because his condition was completely treatable.” She said that even though her husband had been on medication for depression, something could have been done, perhaps starting with a change in medication.

People, Westeren said, “have to talk about depression. They have to talk about mental illness. They have to.”

She suggests individuals who see that loved ones are suffering seek professional help to learn effective coping strategies for themselves and perhaps learn ways to intervene with their loved ones. “And, of course, if there’s immediate danger, call 9-1-1,” Westeren said.

There are also numerous resources online that give information of warning signs and things to look for that should cause people concern, she said. One of those sites is operated by the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at, which can also be reached locally at 885-2300 or toll free, (800) 273-8255.

But Westeren feels she didn’t miss any of the signs of suicide. Taking his life was Ken Westeren’s choice, she said. “When you choose not to get help you don’t see that things could be different.”

Westeren said she herself had been seeing a counselor prior to Ken Westeren’s suicide on March 23 and continues to do so today. She suggests the same for those who find themselves in a similar situation. “Definitely get some counseling to process through the grief and all the emotions that are left behind after the suicide and take it day by day.

“What I’ve tried to do is make it so that Ken’s death isn’t in vain. I shared our story as a means for people to get help,” she said.

Colfax resident Art Madrigal, of Madrigal Training Services which provides suicide alertness training through SafeTALK, said there are steps to take in order to help keep family, friends and co-workers safe until they can be referred to suicide prevention resources.

“Suicide is preventable when we know what to look and listen for and when we get the person thinking about suicide to the people best able to help,” Madrigal said. “A good first step is to become informed about suicide. There are many myths about suicide that contribute to the failure to recognize signs of suicide. Quality programs are available in Colfax and in other areas of Placer County at low or no cost that can help us be aware of and responsive to persons thinking of suicide,” he said. Family and friends should also be a good listener and be prepared with information about local, state and national suicide hotlines.

Locally, Madrigal suggests contacting the Placer County Mental Health Services/Crisis Intervention at 916-787-8860 or 888-886-5401 toll free.

Ken Westeren, 53, grew up in the Bay Area and came to Placer County shortly before the two met, Paula Western said, when he was working for the 4-H after school program and she for the UC Cooperative Extension in the same Auburn building. They opened Bark Avenue Westeren Dog Training and Boutique on Railroad Avenue in the old Colfax Fruit Exchange building in the fall of 2011, a business they had begun in Auburn the previous year.

“Ken had actually started branching off a part of the business as Dog Training ‘The Westeren Way’ and there he worked with service dogs and therapy dogs and dogs that needed more extensive rehabilitation,” said his widow. While that service will no longer be available, she will continue to operate Bark Avenue Westeren Dog Training, which helps dog owners learn effective ways to interact with their dogs to bring about desired behaviors. She will also no longer operate the boutique as the fruit shed building in which they leased space had been under foreclosure and has been sold. She has also taken a leave of absence as the library literacy specialist for Placer County and its PALS, the Placer Adult Literacy Service.


Read more more insight by Art Madrigal about suicide prevention, go to