Editor’s note: This article mentions suicide and may be troubling for some readers.
The loved ones of a San Luis Obispo father who died by suicide said he struggled to access mental health services in San Luis Obispo County.
Jason Errecalde, an electrician at Precision Construction Services in San Luis Obispo, coped with depression and suicidal ideation for most of his life, his wife Tiffany Errecalde told The Tribune.
He was reported missing on June 29 and was found later found dead.
For years, the family struggled to find services on the Central Coast to help Errecalde, she said.
In addition to his wife, Jason Errecalde leaves behind sons Jaden, 15, and Jaxon, 9.
“He was a really great dad,” Tiffany Errecalde said. “I can’t fill the void for him.”
Friends and colleagues mourn Central Coast man
The people who worked with Errecalde were deeply impacted by his passing.
Friends remember him as a generous and outgoing person who was always willing to lend a helping hand at the office.
Precision Construction Services HR manager Stephanie McDonald said one example of Errecalde’s giving nature occurred on June 24, when he came to work at 6 a.m. to help her set up for a team-building event a few days before his death.
“No matter what he was struggling with, he always showed up to work with a bubbly, positive attitude, and it was really surprising for all of us,” McDonald said of his death.
After they learned Errecalde had died, the team had lunch together and then left to spend time with their loved ones, McDonald said.
Since then, the Precision Construction team has tried to wrap their arms around his grieving family, providing support however they can, McDonald said.
“It’s really hard because a lot of people love Jason, and he was always helping people,” Tiffany Errecalde said. “He was always listening to people’s problems, and I wish he would have allowed people to be there for him the way he was there for other people.”
Family struggled to find mental health services in SLO County
Tiffany and Jason Errecalde were married for 10 1/2 years. During that time, Jason Errecalde struggled with severe depression, his wife said.
“I tried so hard to get him help earlier on. I scheduled therapy appointments, I did everything that I could, but ultimately it was up to him,” Tiffany Errecalde said.
The family experienced countless barriers to accessing mental health care on the Central Coast, she said.
For a while, they had coverage through CenCal, which is the Central Coast administrator of MediCal insurance, but even so, they had a difficult time finding mental health providers.
“He couldn’t find a psychiatrist to accept him as a new patient with CenCal so he was still paying out of pocket to see his psychiatrist in San Jose over the phone with telehealth,” his wife wrote in a text message to The Tribune. “I’ve worked in healthcare since 2009, and from their perspective, he was seen as a liability with the numerous hospitalizations and attempts.”
When they finally got private health insurance after Jason Errecalde started working at Precision Construction Services, they had to cover $3,000 deductible before benefits kicked in, Tiffany Errecalde said.
“Not only that, he had a really hard time trying to find a therapist in this area,” she said. “Even then, after COVID and everything, a lot of therapists are only seeing clients by Zoom telehealth appointments.”
Telehealth therapy was a poor substitute for in-person counseling and psychiatric services for Jason, his wife said.
“If you’re going to be discussing things of that nature, you have to sit with someone face-to-face,” she said. “How do you build rapport or trust? Those are just hard things to talk about.”
Jason Errecalde was hospitalized a few times between 2015 and 2019, Tiffany Errecaldesaid. During that time, the family was living in San Jose, where it was easier to access mental health services that ranged from therapy to inpatient hospital beds, she said.
When they returned to San Luis Obispo County and Jason Errecalde experienced a mental health crisis, he would sometimes go to one of the 24-hour Crisis Stabilization Units in the county.
When his suicidal ideation was severe enough, he sometimes stayed at the only inpatient mental health facility in San Luis Obispo County — the 16-bed Psychiatric Health Facility (PHF), called the “Puff.”
“The mental health unit is not like the inpatient units he had been to before (in San Jose),” Tiffany Errecalde said. “When he would go to the PHF, they would medicate him, he would sleep it off for three days and come home.”
She added that “sleeping it off” fails to treat the underlying depression that leads to suicidal ideation.
SLO electrician’s family needs your help
Jason Errecalde’s death is not the only crisis facing his wife, who worked as a home health nurse for Alzheimer’s disease patients until recently.
Her elder son, Jaden, has similarly struggled with mental health challenges and requires greater supervision to keep him safe, she said.
Both of her sons are reeling with grief after the death of their father. Her younger son, Jaxon, hasn’t wanted to let her out of his sight. Jaden is also struggling to cope.
The week before Jason Errecalde died, his wife had to be hospitalized for multiple days for a medical condition.
When her husband was reported missing, Tiffany Errecalde had to skip her shift at work to search for him and take care of her children. She was laid off from her job as a health aid after missing her shift.
“It’s just been one thing after another, and I couldn’t stay consistent,” Tiffany Errecalde said. “(I’m) constantly dealing with somebody in the family having a crisis.”
Right now, the family’s biggest challenge is finances. After losing two sources of income virtually overnight, the life insurance claim was denied because Jason’s cause of death was a suicide.
The family has opted to move into a new unit because Jason Errecalde died at home but needs to come up with money for a new security deposit.
Amanda Guzman, Tiffany Errecalde’s cousin, set up a GoFundMe page to cover funeral expenses and other unexpected costs for the Errecalde family. As of Sunday morning, it had raised $7,200 toward a $10,000 goal.
“Depression and suicide are not matters to be taken lightly,” Guzman wrote on the GoFundMe page. “Jason battled with himself for quite some time, and unfortunately this disease won out in the end.”
Community members can contribute to the GoFundMe page at gofund.me/435f23a1.
The family is still coming to terms with the loss of “a good brother, a good father, a good husband and a great man,” Guzman said.
“I still am having a hard time believing that this is real,” Tiffany Errecalde said.
She tells people who have loved ones that struggle with depression or self-destructive impulses to ask for help each time they express suicidal thoughts or show intention to harm themselves.
“(It) doesn’t matter how many times they say it … call for help,” she said.
How to get help
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener, call 1-800-273-8255 toll-free. You can also call the Central Coast Hotline for free at 800-783-0607 for 24-7 assistance. To learn the warning signs of suicide, visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
This story was originally published July 10, 2022 5:00 AM.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of Jason Errecalde. The error has been corrected.
Corrected Jul 10, 2022