Suicide can be a difficult topic to discuss, but one local group is trying to give the subject a public voice.

Two community forums will be held this week to address the effects of suicide and explore possible means of prevention. The forums, titled “Preventing Suicide: What Our Community Needs to Know,” will be held Tuesday, May 6 at 7 p.m. at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara and Wednesday, May 7, at 7 p.m. at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. The moderators for the forums in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria are, respectively, Jerry Cornfield, host of “The Voice of Santa Barbara,” and Drew Sugars, KCOY news anchor.

“We are trying to break the stigma of suicide,” said Dr. Lisa Firestone, forum organizer and a clinical psychologist specializing in suicide prevention. “We want to educate the community, to get people to know the risk factors and what they can do to help.”

Sponsored by the Glendon Association, a local nonprofit psychiatric organization, in collaboration with Family Service Agency’s Helpline, the forums will include presentations on the warning signs for suicide, as well as presentations from survivors of suicide.

“The survivors really press the issue [of suicide] home,” Firestone said. “They show how painful suicide is. It is a really powerful presentation.”

An open discussion will follow, and the evening will conclude with excepts from two documentaries on suicide prevention. Organizers will also provide information on the crisis hotline and other counseling services available for those at risk.

The forum is part of a greater effort by local organizations and government officials to teach the public about suicide and the ways it affects society. Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum and 5th District Supervisor Joseph Centeno have officially proclaimed May 4-11 to be suicide prevention week.

“Suicide is a sizable problem, but you wouldn’t know it if you paid attention to the media,” Firestone said. “We’re trying [to counteract the lack of awareness] with informative posters and publicity through the local media. Suicide affects everyone – we want to get the message out.”