Conversations about suicide usually include misinformation, myths, assumptions and accusations. And it can be difficult to know the right thing to say.

There are many reasons you might decide to put off a conversation with someone about mental health or suicide. You may think it’s not your place to say something. If someone mentions suicide to you, you may think it’s a joke or the person was angry and didn’t really mean it. Maybe the person was drinking or you don’t know them well enough so you don’t take it seriously.

But you should take every mention of suicide seriously. Seventy percent of people who die by suicide tell someone or give some indication of their intention. Here are three things you can do to change the conversation about suicide.

1. Learn to talk to someone about mental health

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It’s Time to Change the Conversation About Suicide: If you notice the warning signs of suicide in someone you care about, take it seriously and let them tell you how they are feeling. 

The more we are open about mental health with each other, the more people will get the help they need. Confide in a friend about your own mental health or reach out to someone you are worried about and let them know you are concerned about them and willing to listen if they want to talk.

There is no perfect script for talking to someone about suicide. It is most important to show the person you care by being a good listener and offering to support or accompany them in finding help.

2. Understand the warning signs of suicide

Warning signs may vary by person but some common warning signs of suicide include:

Your friend or family member says:

  • Life isn’t worth living- it’s hopeless
  • My family would be better off without me.
  • I won’t be around to deal with that.
  • I wish I were dead.

Your friend of family member is

  • Acting recklessly
  • Preoccupied with death
  • Withdrawing from life, loved ones or activities
  • Hopeless about their financial/work situation
  • Devastated by a relationship problem or breakup

For a complete list of warning signs of suicide, visit stopasuicide.org.

3. Take action when you notice the warning signs in someone you care about

If you notice the warning signs in a friend or loved one, take it seriously and listen. Allow them to tell you how they are feeling and then let them know that you are concerned about them. Encourage them to contact a mental health or healthcare provider for help.

If you are unsure who to contact or need immediate help, call the National suicide prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or 911.

Your friend or loved one may become angry at you for trying to intervene and get them to help. This situation can be difficult but it’s important to remember that timely intervention can make a difference and save a life. In time, your friend or loved one will be grateful you were there to help.

Today, take the first step to change the conversation about suicide by visiting stopasuicide.org and educating yourself on the warning signs and action steps needed to save a life.

National Depression Screening Day is October 6. The annual campaign raises awareness for mood disorders, such as depression and provides free and anonymous mental health self-assessments at helpyourselfhelpothers.org. Due to the recent rise in suicide rates, this year’s campaign also focuses on suicide awareness and timely intervention.