How can a Safety Plan Help?
Suicidal thoughts can seem like they will last forever – but for many, these thoughts and feelings pass. Having a plan in place that can help guide you through difficult moments can make a difference and keep you safe. Ideally, such a plan is developed jointly with your counselor or therapist. It can also be developed with a Lifeline counselor who can help you write down actions to take and people to contact in order to feel safe from suicide. In general, a safety plan is designed so that you can start at step one and continue through the steps until you feel safe. You should keep your plan in a place where you can easily access it (your wallet or cell phone) when you have thoughts of hurting yourself.
The following are essential elements to explore and include in the development of your safety plan*:
1. Recognize warning signs: What sorts of thoughts, images, moods, situations, and behaviors indicate to you that a crisis may be developing? Write these down in your own words.
2. Use your own coping strategies – without contacting another person: What are some things that you can do on your own to help you not act on thoughts/urges to harm yourself?
3. Socialize with others who may offer support as well as distraction from the crisis: Make a list of people (with phone numbers) and social settings that may help take your mind off things.
4. Contact family members or friends who may help to resolve a crisis: Make a list of family members (with phone numbers) who are supportive and who you feel you can talk to when under stress.
5. Contact mental health professionals or agencies: List names, numbers and/or locations of clinicians, local emergency rooms, crisis hotlines – carry the Lifeline number 1-800-273-8255
6. Ensure your environment is safe: Have you thought of ways in which you might harm yourself? Work with your counselor to develop a plan to limit your access to these means.
*Adapted from the Safety Plan Template developed by Barbara Stanley and Gregory K. Brown – see Safety Plan Template