Dear Editor:

Over the past week social media and the news have been filled with stories and articles encouraging people to seek help if they’re in emotional distress. There have been countless articles about the need to break the silence around the topic of mental health and suicide, and I am encouraged by the support people are extending to others.

Often, the death by suicide by prominent individuals gets us all talking about the topic. At Caring Contact, we are all deeply saddened by the tragic death of Kate Spade earlier this week and the news today of the death of Anthony Bourdain. We share in the pain that so many are feeling this week.

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Ms. Spade and Mr. Bourdain are now among the approximately 45,000 suicides each year in the United States. That's 120 people who die each day -- one person every 12 minutes. That’s a tragically large number, but there is work that can be done to reduce that number by every single one of us.

We encourage everyone to get educated about the signs to look for that indicate someone may be in emotional distress. Each one of us can learn the words to say when we’re worried about someone, and we can learn how to be there to keep others safe. You don’t have to be a mental health professional to help. You just have to be trained.

Sign up for a class in Mental Health First Aid or Youth Mental Health First Aid. Take a suicide intervention course. Attend a community awareness event.  Share the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline with loved ones, neighbors, friends. That number is 800-273-8255.

If you want to do more, you have an opportunity right here in your own community. Train to become a listener for Caring Contact, where we answer the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Lives are saved every day by ordinary individuals who are willing to volunteer their time. You can train to listen empathetically, with compassion and without judgment. This is extraordinary work that I am proud to do.