If it happens once, that’s once too often.

No matter how many times you hear about suicide it’s unsettling.

The numbers are more than just statistics in an annual report. We’re not talking debits and credits, profits or losses. This is life and death.

Our neighbors are hurting. Mental illness, depression, substance abuse, desperation, whatever the cause, these are real issues which, without proper attention, can become a preventable death.

Some people need medication. Others counseling or another form of professional treatment. In many cases, support groups have help people find ways to cope with their personal demons.

But they all need what we all would cherish: Support, encouragement and caring.

Unlike cancer, the flu, coronavirus or any other disease, people generally are unwilling to discuss mental health or the dark corners of their mind where suicidal thoughts hide. This fearsome and lonely place needs the comfort of kindness and the light of hope. It’s important to have a safe place or a friendly face to talk through emotional turmoil, traumatic stress, mounting fears or irrational beliefs.

In some cases, local suicides are not reflected in the totals because the person is rushed to a trauma center. It might be our friend or relative who made a desperate choice but the death is recorded instead in another county.

The numbers also do not reflect people who try and fail to take their own lives. Death is only a symptom of this ailment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says for every one suicide death there are 25 attempted suicides. Many around us are in need on assistance.

As a community, it’s important to be sensitive to warning signs.

Some are quite clear and easy to observe: Talking about dying or wanting to die, talking about feeling empty, concerns about hopelessness or having no way out of problems, mentioning strong feelings of guilt and shame, expressing feelings of uselessness, social withdrawal and isolation, giving away personal possession or saying goodbye to friends and family.

Experts with save.org say other signals are not so clear.

It might be a dramatic change in sleep patterns, stark emotional mood swings, acting anxious or even reckless, losing interest in normal activities and habits or accessing lethal means such as stockpiling medication or uncharacteristically purchasing a weapon.

A list of 24-hour emergency counseling numbers appears with this editorial. Clip it out and keep it handy. Don’t be afraid to seek help or encourage a loved one to do so.

Just like avoiding the spread of the flu, knowing first aid and CPR or any other health matter, suicide prevention is a community concern. Educate yourself and be ready to help.