When a phone number isn't enough

In the hours after reports of food journalist Anthony Bourdain’s death and apparent suicide, and the days after fashion icon Kate Spade also took her life, many –celebrities and others – have taken to social media sharing information about suicide hotlines.

But this morning, model Chrissy Teigen spoke up about her own experience with depression on Twitter, and how knowing about a hotline wasn’t enough for her to get help.

More: Anthony Bourdain Dies in France at 61 Years Old

“In my deepest, darkest post-partum depression, I would have personally never called a phone number,” Teigan wrote. “If John or my doctor never reached out, I would have never even known. It really can be a lonely hole. Watch the people you love and don’t be afraid to speak up.

A minute after her tweet, she added, “Obviously not everyone is me and the hotline is incredibly important.”

Her powerful message is simple: while hotline phone numbers are vital information to have for those struggling with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, it’s not the only way that loved ones can help those struggling with these mental illnesses. In fact, there’s more that you can do if you believe a friend or relative may be thinking of taking their own life.

More: What People Don’t Realize About Suicide Prevention

“These mental illnesses are complicated things and difficult to diagnose,” said Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author, The Self-Aware Parent, regular expert child psychologist on The Doctors, CBS TV, and co-star on Sex Box, WE tv.

“But although a diagnosis requires professionals, loved ones can keep their eyes and ears open by watching out for signs and symptoms. At the same time, they should also not to feel responsible if they miss things.

Walfish said that one of the most helpful and effective things you can do is ask straightforward questions.

“Family members and friends who are concerned about an individual who they think might be grappling with hopelessness or suicidal thoughts should never be afraid to ask the question directly: are you having thoughts of hurting yourself or killing yourself?

Many people fear that if they ask, they will implant the idea in the person’s head, but that’s just not true,” she continued. “You can’t implant a suicidal thought that is already there, but if it is there and you confront it, bringing it out into the open is a giant step toward getting help.”

If a person admits to having thoughts of hopelessness or suicide, the next step is to get them help. This could be as simple as talking to a primary care physical (a family doctor, an OBGYN, or a pediatrician can help), or, if the person is in immediate danger, staying with them and either calling 911 or taking them to the emergency room.

“When in doubt, lean on the side of caution,” Walfish concluded. “Follow your gut intuition. If you think you’re with someone in danger, get them help now.”

More: Chrissy Teigen slammed for being brave enough to admit moms need help

Chrissy Teigen has been candid about her battle with postpartum depression since her daughter, Luna Simone, was 11 months old.

“I couldn’t figure out why I was so unhappy,” she wrote in a cover story for Glamour. “I blamed it on being tired and possibly growing out of the role: ‘Maybe I’m just not a goofy person anymore. Maybe I’m just supposed to be a mom.’”

Like many people with depression, she didn’t realize what was wrong until loved ones stepped in and she spoke to her doctor.

“My doctor pulled out a book and started listing symptoms,” she wrote. “And I was like, ‘Yep, yep, yep.’ I got my diagnosis: postpartum depression and anxiety.”

Teigen’s message is just as important as the hotline information: for some, others need direct help and can’t reach out alone, either because they don’t know they need help, or because their illness stops them.

For more information on the warning signs and prevention of suicide, click here. If you’re considering suicide or fear you may become suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24-7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you’re worried about someone you love, visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org. If you live outside the U.S., you can find a list of suicide-prevention hotlines worldwide here.

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