This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the suicide rate among middle-aged Americans climbed 28 percent between 1999 and 2010.

Having lost my two brothers 20 and 13 years ago, it is important to remember that these numbers represent real people and real families. When I lost my brothers, I wasn't thinking about statistics. Instead, I was overwhelmed by a thousand questions, many of which began with "Why?"

When I became a volunteer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I learned that 90 percent of people who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness, often undiagnosed depression or alcohol and substance abuse. Now, it is my mission to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness. Sadly, shame and embarrassment keep far too many people from seeking help. With early detection and treatment, suicide can be prevented.

I hope that you will take a moment to visit for information about suicide warning signs and risk factors and learn how to get more involved.

Ellen J. Eggert