HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– It’s a hard topic to broach, but experts say the holiday just might be the ideal time to ask specific questions about mental health before it’s too late.

Are suicide rates up amid the pandemic?

RELATED: New data shows spike in Connecticut veteran suicides, advocates fear pandemic could trigger more

“That’s the million-dollar question going on right now,” said Tom Steen, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Connecticut averages more than 400 suicides a year. Less than a dozen are typically people under 18. But last month advocates sent an alert to superintendents across the state, urging them to be on the lookout after…

“Four untimely suicide deaths of high school kids – two of which were 14-years-old,” said Steen.

Tom Steen and his wife live in Simsbury. They live with the unspeakable pain of losing their 21-year-old son Tyler to suicide while he was out of state in college. Steen has since trained hundreds to be suicide prevention trainers across the state.

Data shows Connecticut is…

“At where we were last year,” said Steen.

So, suicide rates aren’t up. But Steen fears this is just the beginning.

“There’s going to be an effect. And it’s going to be a delay. And we’re just beginning to see it,” said Steen.

His plea to families across the Nutmeg state as they prepare to gather for the Thanksgiving holiday. Have hard conversations.

“Not being afraid to talk to your loved ones and say, ‘hey what’s going on? You don’t seem right. I’m here to help you talk to me.’ And not be afraid to go there and say, ‘Are you thinking of killing yourself. Are you thinking of suicide,'” said Steen.

Steen says we might even need to come up with a new way to talk about the pandemic.

“I wish we could take social distancing out of our dictionary. Because we are social beings. We can’t socially distance. We are social beings. We can physically distance. Which I like better,” said Steen.

Here in Connecticut, you can just call 211 and you can be connected to a professional who can talk you through how to handle this if you know someone in danger. And that person can always walk into any emergency room.