Friends and family can be in an extremely important position to help prevent suicide, sometimes more immediately than mental health professionals. William Zimmerman, supervisor of Rutgers University's community suicide hotline, extolled the possibilities of this help in a recent press release.

The foundation of this concept is that it is often easiest for someone who already knows a person struggling with suicidal thoughts to ask about them. You may not know a friend or family member is having suicidal thoughts, but concerning symptoms may be visible, and this is when it is important to begin a conversation. "Asking someone about suicide won't put the idea in their head," Zimmerman says, so asking is more likely to help than not.

Signs that someone may be at risk for suicide go beyond commonly blamed mood disorders. MedlinePlus lists some of the changes to watch for:

  • increased substance abuse
  • anxiety
  • agitation
  • difficulty sleeping
  • dramatic mood changes
  • a feeling of hopelessness and being trapped
  • having no sense of purpose
  • social withdrawal
  • uncontrolled anger
  • reckless behavior

Finally, if someone tells you they are considering suicide, it is important not to " judge...deny...[or] promise to keep it a secret," Zimmerman reminds us. Rather, "get support for the person talking about suicide and for yourself."

To read the full article on Zimmerman's press release, please visit the MedlinePlus website.