If someone you know is thinking about suicide, it is essential to talk about it. We now know that when people talk about suicide, they may be on the brink of committing it. Ask them how they are doing and acknowledge the fact that they seem to be sad.

And then just LISTEN.

In our fast-paced world, so many of us don’t listen and simply look as if we are. But if someone’s life is in the balance, nothing is more important than hearing the other person and paying close attention to what they say.

By showing interest in someone who is severely depressed, you give that person the sense that someone cares.

I know.

When I’ve been severely depressed, I believed that no one cared. This kind of thinking is a symptom of the illness.

Once you’ve listened carefully, assure the person that help is available. Offer to help them find the help they need. Because untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide, professional help is essential—not sometime in the future, but now.

Don’t act shocked or judgmental, or lecture the person about all the good things in life. They can’t hear it. Accept any statements the person shares with you, and be sure to let them know their remarks are real and important.

Don’t be afraid of the topic of suicide. It may be the most important conversation you have in your lifetime. Ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide and if they have a plan. The more detail they give you, the greater the risk. Don’t ever minimize the threat or dismiss their feelings as unimportant.

Trust your instincts. And don’t fall into the trap of keeping their remarks a secret. Help must be immediate and professional. Saving a life is always more important than keeping a secret.

Please share these rules of the road with as many people as you can.