"Are you suicidal?"
It's a confronting question, it can lead to a confronting answer and it should be asked more often, says Lifeline Chairman John Brogden.
The former NSW Liberal leader this year marked 10 years since he tried to take his own life by calling for suicide to be declared a national emergency.
"All our experience and all the research shows if you draw it out of people, if you force them to answer that question, then people often do answer it and that opens them up to being helped," Brogden told The Huffington Post Australia.
"Do you feel like want to hurt yourself, do you feel like you want to kill yourself - these are incredibly difficult questions to ask, very uncomfortable questions to ask, but they are the right questions to ask people."
Most important message from John Brogden today - "there is a way back". We need to get THAT message to ppl who are struggling. @LifelineAust— Jaelea Skehan (@jaeleaskehan) August 31, 2015
He also wants a national toll of suicides, not unlike the national road toll.
"I reckon after a couple of months of seeing how many people die every day from suicide, there would be a public outcry and people would be requiring much more to be done," he said.
Since 2005, 23,500 Australians have taken their own lives.
That's a 20 percent rise over the past 10 years, while the number of road deaths fell by 25 percent over the same period, Brogden said.
"It goes to show you that despite the fact there are more people on thew roads in faster cars every day, if we as a community come together and if the government supports programs we can reduce things like road deaths," he said.
"What I want is that attitude to be taken towards suicides."
Lifeline says suicide is the largest single cause of death in Australia for men and women under 44, while Indigenous People’s suicide rates being among the highest in the world. Seven Australians take their own lives every day.
Brogden, who has pushed the issue in letters to Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Health Minister Sussan Ley, sees a focused education campaign and bolstering resources for suicide prevention programs as part of the national response.
"It's also about acceptance in the community that there is no shame attached to having a mental illness," he said.
"People shouldn't feel ashamed, they shouldn't be embarrassed and they should reach out for help when they think they need it."
This story was originally published on August 31, 2015.