Experts say don't be afraid to ask friends, family and co-workers if they are having suicidal thoughts

SEATTLE -- It's one of the top three most rapidly increasing causes of death in the country. Suicide rates increased 25% across the U.S. between 1999 and 2016.

Twenty-five states experienced a more than 30% increase.

Here in Washington, it was about 19%.

It brings up a question of what we can do as a society to change the statistics.

At the Crisis Clinic in King County, they are trying to make a difference one call at a time.

Volunteers working the Crisis Line room alone received nearly 120,000 calls last year for help.

With the recent celebrity suicides, the clinic is expecting call volumes to go up.

The Crisis Clinic has 40 people taking turns fielding calls 24/7.

The callers can stay anonymous.

Volunteers go through robust training to know what to say to people who are struggling.

They listen and spread hope to people who are having suicidal thoughts.

“Less than 5% of the time we actually have to do an active rescue or dispatch 911. We are really able to calm those people down to a level of feeling like they have a plan,” Clinical Director Dipti Chrastka said.

The message is that everyone can do what the volunteers are doing in everyday life.

“People are afraid to use the word suicide with a friend or loved one that they are worried about,” Crisis Clinic Executive Director Allie Franklin said.

Franklin says if anyone seems hopeless or helpless around you, ask them if they are having suicidal thoughts. Franklin says many will stay away from that subject thinking it would plant suicidal thoughts.

“That doesn’t plant a seed that says I am an OK person to talk to about that -- anyone can ask that question, you don’t have to be a therapist,” Franklin said.

If the answer is yes, eliminate immediate risks.

“So getting things that someone would use to harm themselves,” Franklin said.

And offer to get help together.

“Can we together call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or one of the crisis lines?" Franklin said.

Franklin says when a celebrity dies by suicide, it does bring more awareness but it could also make it harder for those suffering from depression.

“We worry about contagion, we worry about someone feeling gosh, this feels very hopeless,” Franklin said.

That's why she says the focus should not be about how someone died, instead it should be on the support and compassion that is out there for those struggling.

If you need help call 1-866-4CRISIS or 206-461-3222.

If you live outside King County, you can call 1-800-273-8255.