WA - The Washington State Department of Health started a podcast series called 'Coping with COVID,' where each week health experts talk about some of the difficulties we've been facing with the COVID-19 pandemic. This week's episode was on suicide prevention and how to help someone having suicidal thoughts.

The podcast is hosted by Kira Mauseth, PhD and Doug Dicharry, MD. In this episode, Lizzie Cayden for the DOH Suicide Prevention Program Unit and Jennifer Stuber, PhD at the University of Washington School of Social Work guest starred and gave strategies for how to help someone with suicidal thoughts.

"It's extremely important when someone is thinking about suicide to really try to address some of the things that are happening for that person so that it doesn't get more severe," Stuber said.

Suicidal thoughts can come from a number of causes including trauma, but most commonly when someone goes through a big life change that changes how they seem themselves in the world.

According to Brett Bass, program director of Safer Homes Suicide Awareness, this could be anything from giving birth, to getting fired or going through a divorce. 

In order to help someone, you have to know they are having these thoughts. According to Bass, one indicator that someone may be suicidal is if their behavior dramatically changes like an quiet person suddenly becoming very outgoing or vise versa.

If you are concerned about someone, Stuber said it's best to ask the person directly. She added that asking someone if they are thinking about suicide won't put the thought in their head if it's not already there. 

If the person doesn't feel comfortable talking to you about it, that's okay, you can still direct them to resources like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the crisis text line at 741-741.

If they do feel comfortable with your help, one thing you can do is distract them. You can distract them from their thoughts by doing something they enjoy like going on a walk or by distracting their senses with a cold shower.

You can also offer hope that one day these thoughts will go away.

"Some really important things for people to understand is that when they're having those acute feelings around suicidal thoughts that they do dissipate," Stuber said. "For everybody, the range of time it takes for that to happen varies, but they do dissipate over time. So it's important to kind of get through that critical time using some coping strategies."

Lastly, store any equipment that may be used to act on those suicidal thoughts like medications or guns. 

You can watch the full 'Coping with Covid' podcast here

Resources for suicide prevention:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Crisis text line: 741-741

Free mental health services: giveanhour.org