OAKLEY — Residents came together at a city-sponsored workshop Thursday night to learn how to prevent suicide in their community.

The suicide prevention and intervention workshop was co-hosted by the city and the Contra Costa Crisis Center in response to recent suicides, Councilwoman Diane Burgis said.

Lesley Garcia, a crisis intervention team leader and supervisor, presented a “Suicide 101” workshop that delved into available services in the region, suicide myths and realities, signs and risk factors and how to help a potentially suicidal person.

Garcia said she frequently works in East County and sees that the “community wants to change” and “do more to help each other.”

“It sounds like all of you have come together,” she said to the attendees.

More than 39,000 Americans committed suicide in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, Garcia said. That year, 116 people died of suicide in Contra Costa County and seven of those were younger than 24.

Garcia debunked common myths, such as it being impossible to stop someone who has made up his or her mind about committing suicide, or that talking about suicide will put the idea in someone’s head.

Being an active listener to a person contemplating suicide can result in them finding help, she said.

“If someone were to say something, maybe they’d be willing to talk about it,” Garcia said.

Event attendees practiced talking to people about suicide by asking one another questions such as, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”

She said signs of suicidal thoughts include verbal clues, mental illness, hopelessness, impulsive or aggressive tendencies, history of trauma or abuse, alcohol or substance abuse, family history of suicide, job or financial loss, relational or social loss, easy access to lethal means, sense of isolation, self-injury and low self-esteem.

The seminar and several like it have been held in response to recent suicides in the community, Burgis said.

The county coroner’s office reports eight people have committed suicide in Oakley this year. Deputy Scott Anderson said the last confirmed suicide occurred Sept. 23.

The event was held to educate residents about how to identify signs of a person having thoughts of suicide and how to intervene, Burgis said.

“I know that with this particular project, we’ll never know how many people we’ll help,” she said.

Burgis announced that the city is seeking volunteers who are interested in participating “in a core group who would like to keep this going throughout the year.” Volunteers will do community outreach and raise awareness about suicide prevention and intervention.

Oakley resident Michael Berry said he would like to volunteer for the outreach group because he is passionate about helping people in a crisis situation.

“When I hear about the suicides, it breaks my heart because there is help,” Berry said.

Berry, a psychology student, said he believes there are enough regional resources for those who need help, but there are not enough resources in Oakley.

“I’m excited to see Oakley take it seriously,” Berry said.

For more information on the Contra Costa Crisis Center, visit www.crisis-center.org or call 800-833-2900.

Contact Katrina Cameron at 925-779-7164. Follow her at Twitter.com/KatCameron91.

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By Katrina Cameron Contra Costa Times

http://www.contracostatimes.com/contra-costa-times/ci_26983601/oakley-suicide-prevention-workshop-teaches-participants-what-look