Why is suicide the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds?

A community forum at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara will attempt to answer this and many other questions about the effects and prevention of suicide, at today’s seventh annual forum on suicide prevention.

The free forum, which begins tonight at 7, will provide information on risk factors, warning signs, youth suicide, senior citizen suicide and services available to the community.

The event is a part of National Suicide Awareness Week and is co-sponsored by the Glendon Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to psychotherapy, and the Family Services Agency, a non-profit organization that supports low-income families.

The forum will feature seven guest speakers. Glendon Association Education and Program Director Lisa Firestone will lecture on “Understanding Suicide: Risk Factors and Warning Signs.”

“The whole idea is public awareness,” Firestone said. “In order to reduce the rate of suicide, [people] must be aware and willing to intervene.”

Although seniors are at highest risk for completed suicide, statistically, 15 to 24-year-olds have the most attempted suicides, Firestone said.

“Most youths tell a friend before they attempt suicide,” Firestone said. “It’s really easy not to take a friend seriously, but it is important not to treat the situation lightly. You might think you are breaking the trust of a relationship, but it never pays to keep a secret.”

Glendon Association Public Relations Director Jina Carvalho said seniors, especially white male widowers, are at highest risk because they have trouble dealing with their emotions and the loss of life.

“Suicides are more frequent when alcohol is involved,” said Carvalho. “People want out of their pain; we try to help them find a way out. Suicidal people are seeing the world through a filter. We see suicide as a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

The forum will take begin tonight at 7 p.m. at the Burtness Auditorium of the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, located on the corner of Pueblo Street and Bath Street.

The Santa Barbara suicide hotline number is 692-4011 and the national hotline is 1-800-SUICIDE.