OCEANSIDE — A group of South Oceanside neighbors are working to bring hope to their community.
April Manriquez, the organizer of Hope South O, said she was moved to do something positive early last year after three train suicides occurred in her neighborhood. She said the incidents were disturbing and became more so when she learned that those who committed suicide lived in Oceanside.
Manriquez said the tragedies prompted her to ask herself what she could do to make a difference. The answer she came up with was to do something fun and inclusive to lift people up.
Manriquez and a small core group of friends, who range in age from 20 to 60, posted positive signs at Lions Club Park near the train tracks.
One of the first posted signs said “Hope lives in South O.”
To add to the positive message fun blowing bubbles were left beneath the sign. Later dozens of journals were left with inspirational questions to prompt writers, and were quickly picked up by park visitors.
Hope South O held a community bake sale to raise money for recent fire victims, and a block party that drew about 400 people.
Manriquez said those who attended the gatherings were uplifted by connecting with community.
“We want to do more of that,” Manriquez said.
The group also set up a portable “hope” booth at Lions Club Park as a place to gather and talk. People began recognizing Manriquez and her group and thanking them for their positive work.
The booth also drew people who shared their hardships and own thoughts of suicide. Manriquez said she provided positive support and contact information to local suicide prevention agencies to those who needed it.
Staff at Community Health Improvement Partners said thoughts of suicide continue to carry a stigma.
“It’s not like talking about physical illnesses like cancer,” Lora Cayanan, Community Health Improvement Partners program coordinator, said. “Not being able to discuss thoughts leaves individuals contemplating in the dark.”
Over the past six years there has been a decrease in suicides in North County. Cayanan said a lot of work still needs to be done in suicide prevention.
Community Health Improvement Partners offers free suicide prevention training.
For more information on dealing with thoughts of suicide contact the 24-hour San Diego Access and Crisis hotline at (888) 724-7240.