How to Create a Suicide-Prevention Safety Plan

By Doug Thomas

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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You can create a safety plan so that if you have thoughts of hurting yourself, you can start at step 1 and continue through the steps until you feel safe. The best time to create your plan is before you find yourself in a crisis. Keep your plan where you can easily access it, such as in your cell phone. There are websites and apps that have helpful templates to fill out, or you can create a plan with the help of an expert (see step 6 below) or on your own using these suggestions:

1. Recognize the warning signs.

What sorts of thoughts, moods, and behaviors tell you a crisis might be developing? Write them in your own words. For example: “When I cancel all my activities and only want to sleep.” “When I keep having thoughts of being a burden.” “When I feel agitated, like I need to do something immediately to get out of pain.” Noticing these warning signs will help you know you need to activate your plan.

2. Try to calm and comfort yourself.

Create a list of soothing and relaxing activities that you can do when you have thoughts or urges to harm yourself. Examples may include going for a walk, taking a warm bath, exercising, praying, or writing in a journal.

3. Think about your reasons for living.

At times, the pain may swallow up positive feelings. Create a list to remind yourself of the people you love, things you like to do, and blessings you have felt grateful for.

4. Reach out to others and ask for help.

List several people (with phone numbers) you can talk to and who would be willing and available to help you through the rest of your safety plan during a crisis. These people could include friends, ward members, and family members.

5. Make sure you are in a safe environment.

This may involve asking someone to help remove items that you are likely to use to hurt yourself, or going somewhere else until your feelings shift. Make a list of social settings—such as parks, gyms, movie theaters, and so on—that are safe and distracting.

6. If you still feel like harming yourself, contact a professional.

List names, numbers, and locations of clinicians, emergency rooms, and crisis hotlines. Suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html lists hotlines for dozens of countries. For example, the United States number is 1-800-273-TALK.

7. After doing all of this, if you still don’t feel safe, call emergency services or go to your nearest hospital and ask for help.