Addressing suicide: Students are provided with help and hope during annual conference


Dr. Caitlyn Ryan speaks about suicide prevention among LGBTQ teens and adults at the 4th annual Preventing Suicide Help & Hope conference on Friday, Sept. 13. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

By Justin Downes

Moorpark College hosted the 4th Annual Preventing Suicide Help & Hope conference on Friday, Sept. 13. Various speakers discussed the nature of suicide, as well as mental health concerns that occur in specific groups such as the LGBTQ community, Latinx and Veterans.

Moorpark College student, Matthew Nasl, volunteered at the conference, “You never know who you might reach,” he said.

Nasl, 20, a psychology major, noted, “One conversation with a person who’s struggling can make all the difference.”

September is Suicide Prevention Month, an issue that is not always easy to discuss but has affected many.

Suicide is the 10th most preventable cause of death in the United States. According to the Ventura County Star, 95 people committed suicide in Ventura County in 2018.

Keynote speaker Lisa Hamp spoke on her experience at the Virginia Tech shooting during the 4th annual Preventing Suicide Help & Hope conference hosted by Moorpark College on Friday, Sept. 13. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

“We have mental health counselors here for students to see for free. It’s confidential, and we give up to six sessions a semester,” explained Sharon Manakas, coordinator of student health services at Moorpark College, she helped arrange the conference held in both the Performing Arts Center and the EATM building.

Manakas also spoke on the various ways to reach someone who is contemplating suicide,”To help, you need to have a time to talk where you can be present and ask questions such as ‘Are you OK? I’m concerned about you. This is what I’m noticing,’ and ‘Are you having thoughts of suicide?’”

Manakas elaborated on the topic of social media, and how it can contribute to feelings of isolation.

“One of today’s challenges is that students don’t always learn the social skills to develop friendships and support groups in the real world,” said Manakas.

Caitlin Ryan, PhD. is the director of the Family Acceptance Project, a group that advocates for suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth.

In the workshop Ryan expressed that college is exciting, though it is also a stressful time, especially for those struggling with their identity. Without a strong support group of family and friends, LGBTQ youth often end up feeling ostracized.

According to Ryan, those in the LGBTQ community are four times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.

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Officer Dan James, left, and Officer Bryan Glasscock, right, of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department run the Ventura County Crisis Intervention Team, C.I.T, stand at the Preventing Suicide Help & Hope conference on Friday, Sept. 13. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

The Moorpark College Spectrum Club also attended the conference in support of LGBTQ and issues that the community often face. “We’re here raising awareness, and letting people know there’s a safe place they can go,” stated Spectrum Club member Emma Hawe.

At a nearby booth for the Ventura County Veteran Service Office, counselor John Jackson expressed that veterans often face issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

According to the VA’s 2012 Suicide Data Assessment, it is estimated that 18-22 Veterans commit suicide each day.

“We offer resources for military vets who are transitioning from a very structured environment into civilian life, which can often be difficult. Vets, spouses and even children of vets can talk to us about available VA benefits,” stated Jackson.

The crowd watches a short documentary called "Always my son" produced by the Family Acceptance Project on Friday, Sept. 13 at the Preventing Suicide Help & Hope conference. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

The conference at Moorpark College was made possible by Oxnard College and the Ventura Country Behavioral Health team.

To learn more and get involved, the Ventura County Suicide Prevention Council meets on the first Friday of every month from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Ventura County Behavioral Health office in Oxnard.

Resources about suicide prevention can be found at If you or anyone you know is thinking about suicide call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.