Starting a conversation about the topic of suicide is uncomfortable, but it’s worth it: speaking openly and frankly about suicide is one of the most effective ways to prevent it. September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which provides a dedicated time for people to raise awareness and strengthen the fight against suicide.

Know someone who is struggling? Reach out. One conversation can make a difference.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall in the U.S. It is the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between 35 and 54.

According to a report released in June by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates increased 28 percent since 1999. In fact, every year, more than 41,000 people die by suicide—18 percent of them veterans. One way to bring that number down is to eliminate stigma surrounding mental health, especially since suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Another way to prevent suicide is to know the common warning signs of suicidal thoughts. Here are some of them, according to the American for Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

  • Talking about suicide, hurting themselves, death, or dying
  • Seeking access to firearms or pills
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
  • Having severe mood swings
  • Feeling hopeless or trapped
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Sleeping all the time or having issues with sleep
  • Uncontrolled rage or agitation
  • Self-destructive and risky behavior
  • Giving away personal belongings
  • Telling people goodbye for seemingly no reason

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is a time to share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on a problem that must be brought out of the darkness to save lives. Here is one story, by Michael Darer, a suicide attempt survivor.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454). For veterans, it’s the same number, but press one for Veterans Crisis Line. Counselors are also available for online chat by clicking here. Text messaging is available at 838255.