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Don't overlook importance of talking about mental health with loved ones

Dr. Amy Beth Taublieb wants people to have conversations with their loved ones if they think they need mental health help.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — If you need help, call 716-834-3131 to connect 24/7 with Crisis Services.

We know that talking about suicide is a difficult conversation to even think about, let alone have.

But this is really something that can be a matter of life and death, so we are taking some time to talk about about how to approach the topic with loved ones.

Dr. Amy Beth Taublieb wants people to talk about their mental health and wants us to not be afraid to bring this topic up if you think someone's thinking about suicide.

Dr. Taublieb said by bringing up suicide with somebody you are worried about, you most likely aren't giving them the idea. She says most people have thought at one point or another: life is too much for me right now.

She also says don't walk on eggshells. While it's crucial not to be harsh, it's also crucial to be direct, she says, and ask, are you thinking about hurting yourself, and are you thinking of ending your own life?

"So often we are reluctant to ask that question because, number one, and again, understandably, we are afraid to hear the answer, and number two, there's a myth that if the person wasn't thinking about it, we may be giving them the idea and nothing is further from the truth. I think at times, what is so important, what is crucial, what is necessary, is to actually be direct and say I'm concerned about you, and I'm wondering are you thinking about hurting yourself?" Dr. Taublieb said.

She realizes that it's a hard conversation to have, but she says our instincts are really good, and if you think you should ask someone about this, you should ask.

Dr. Taublieb knows that this is an uncomfortable thing to talk about. A lot of people just don't talk about it, and she wants you to know it's OK to ask someone if they're thinking about suicide.

Don't be afraid to bring up the topic, she says.

If your loved one is acting different. If they're quiet when they're usually outgoing or outgoing when they're usually quiet, she says it's OK to ask them if they're OK and say you're concerned about them. If they brush you off, ask again.

So Dr. Taublieb also says don't make assumptions about how well-adjusted someone is on the outside.

"Someone can seem to us as if they are well-off financially, as you said, have their whole life ahead of them, extremely attractive, extremely successful,   extremely intelligent, the list goes on and on. And for people like that, it's very easy for onlookers to dismiss the possibility that they're feeling depressed, that they're feeling suicidal," Dr. Taublieb said.

"You know, we as human beings are very good actors and actresses, and we get through life a lot of the time by not sharing our feelings, and it's specifically those of us who keep our feelings inside, who feel that we cannot or will not share them. These are the people that struggle, that feel very alone, and eventually feel helpless and hopeless."

Dr. Taublieb says giving away prized possessions, not caring anymore, a person with a perfectly neat house now has garbage all over the place, a person who was really into working out and how they looked not caring about how they're eating; those are all things to be aware of.

She says it doesn't necessarily mean suicidal thoughts, but it means they could use some help with their mental health probably.

She says don't assume anything about how someone's feeling or what they're going through.

Once you start that conversation, she says it's important to be there for the person. She says these are the kinds of things you can say if someone says this:

"I don't want to call anybody else. I don't want to call a stranger. That's OK right now. Why don't you stay on the phone with me for a while. Let's talk it over. If you're close enough, let me sleep over with you tonight just so you're not alone. We can talk about it some more tonight. We can talk about it in the morning. You can find out if this person has a therapist. Is seeing someone professionally and make a phone call to that therapist, to that clinical professional. There are all kinds of options," Dr. Taublieb said.

She also says don't be shy about asking the person who they want to talk to and you can help connect them with that resource.

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