MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ohio (WDTN) — As Ohioans deal with depression and mental health issues amid the pandemic, health experts are working hard to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. Many believe that the fight to end the tragic loss of life begins with awareness.

In Montgomery County, the suicide rate was the highest in 2020 from July to September with about 10 per month. Across the state we’ve already had several deaths by suicide in 2021.

Andrew Mitakides, co-chairman of the Out of the Darkness Walk, found out that he suffered from bipolar disorder and depression. He’s a survivor of attempted suicide and said he has five friends who died by suicide.

“They say each day gets easier, but some days are good, some days are harder. One was my 18-year-old cousin and you don’t know what to do.”

Mitakides hopes that spreading awareness will help save someone else’s life.

In 2020, there were 1,462 deaths by suicide statewide. This was a 19% decrease from 2019 but Dayton Police said they received 376 mental health calls in 2020, with suicides and attempts up 67%.

Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said the only way he can think to describe it is “jaw dropping.”

Helen Jones-Kelley, the executive director of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board for Montgomery County, said there are warning signs to look out for.

“If we begin to notice that we don’t pick up our activities as quickly, or maybe we remain isolated out of fear or just feeling overwhelmed, that’s the time to begin to look at whether or not there’s a need for professional intervention,” Jones-Kelley said.

Jones-Kelley said it’s just as important to look out for yourself as it is your loved ones.

“Maybe they aren’t taking your calls. They’ve become withdrawn. They’re just staying in bed all day and not wanting to socially interact, so they’re isolating themselves,” Jones-Kelly said. “If you have a suspicion that they are considering it, ask them ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself?’ The direct question sounds harsh but it will get the answer so you can be helpful to someone.”

Mitakides said you should keep in mind that you’re not alone and you never will be. If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.