Twenty people lost their lives to suicide in La Crosse County last year. 

More than 200 people gathered at the La Crosse Area Suicide Prevention Summit Wednesday to talk about ways to keep the number of suicides from growing.

The summit started conversations about many different topics related to suicide. Depression, warning signs and responding to risks were just a few of those topics.

But hope and resilience, were the main focus of Wednesday's summit.

"One of the reasons why I got into the field of suicide prevention is because I actually see it as an opportunity of hope," said Jennifer Muehlenkamp, associate professor of psychology at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when talking about suicide, but prevention specialists say it's key to encourage more people to get help.

"I hear more stories of people struggling and overcoming than I do of the tragedies," said Muehlenkamp.

However that doesn't mean suicide rates don't continue to grow.

"Our state has high suicide rates," said Barb Bigalke, founder and executive director at The Center for Suicide Awareness.

She said there's a reason why more and more people are losing their lives to suicide.

"We really don't talk about it, the stigma keeps people from don't ask, don't tell type of thing and the more we can bring it to a more hey let's start this conversation, the more we can start to see the reduction of suicide," said Bigalke.

And today's summit, aimed to start an important conversation.

"We're really starting to spread the message and more and more people are becoming aware of what to do to help prevent suicide, part of it is spreading awareness and not just awareness of signs and symptoms to look for but also awareness of the resources that are available," said Muehlenkamp.

One way to encourage hope, is through the HOPELINE.

"You can text in at any time of the day, night for any kind of reason it could be simply I need somebody to let this all out, I'm going through a breakup, I'm just struggling and I want somebody to validate me or you know what, I'm looking for resources in my community and where do I go? where do I turn?," said Bigalke.

Five people have lost their life to suicide in La Crosse County just this year alone. In 2014, there were 23 suicides through the first week of October in La Crosse.

If you or anyone you know struggles with depression and mental illness, a support group meets every Monday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse. You may also call the Great Rivers crisis line at 211.