On the top of the page, I’ve attached a PDF file of a safety plan, so you can even make your own. In this blog, I will walk you through each section and how to fill it out for success in your mental health journey.
First, it asks you about your warning signs. These can be anything that normally triggers you. It can be something as broad as a specific situation or it can be as specific as a name or color. Some of my specific triggers are high-stress situations that normally involve law enforcement or abusive situations. Something else that is pretty common is when people seem to be yelling at each other. It triggers my anxiety which I know when I start feeling dizzy and light-headed. So, this section is to help you pay attention to warning signs that you need to start taking steps to realign and get your mind back on track.
Next, this section is about listing our internal coping strategies. These are normally activities that we can do alone when we notice our warning signs to attempt to get our thoughts back on track. It can be something as small as taking a shower when you start feeling overwhelmed. In this section, I like to list things that are examples of good self care. Taking a long shower, eating a healthy meal, meditation, listening to music, etc. Anything that you can do alone that will distract you from the bad thoughts that keeping kicking you down.
In the third section, it asks to list people that provide distraction from the warning signs. It’s not asking for people to call when you feel like you need help, but for people who provide the best distraction when you are struggling with distracting yourself from those warning signs. Sometimes we know people who make me feel good, but we wouldn’t necessarily trust them to help us mentally. This section is asking for those people. Make sure to list people that you feel comfortable with when you feel weak. People who keep you busy in the best ways so you can focus on the good rather than the bad. You can also list places that help you distract yourself. For me, it’s going to my office. It’s quiet, it’s private, I can focus on certain projects that will keep my mind busy. Some people find that going to the store can help, or going to the park. Something that is going to enable you to focus on something other than your warning signs.
The fourth section is where you can list people that you trust to know what’s up with you. These are people who usually already know that you struggle with mental illness and are more than willing to keep an eye on you so you don’t fall further into bottomless pit. These people are usually ones who I know I can text something simple like “I’m not feeling too well today, can you check on me in x hours” or “I’m having a bad mental health day, can you come keep me company?” These people are usually people from a support group or someone who knows how to get help if things get out of hand.
The fifth section is essentially for the professionals who can help you. This sheet comes with the suicide hotline already prefilled because that’s an automatic go to when in doubt. I’ve used this hotline a few times, and it did help me each time. It might not have been an immediate fix but they always gave me resources to use. This a good spot to list a therapist, counselor, psychologist, doctor, etc. It’s important to remember that these people are usually under oath to do something if it is an emergency. Most therapists don’t automatically want to throw you into a psych ward unless you tell them you are seriously considering ending your life. But if you call them and let them try to get you to start talking about it, then they will do everything they can to keep you out of the psych ward. These are normally very important contacts because they are professionals, they are trained to try to help you. If all else fails before this, they will do everything they can to save your life.
Step six is a little vague, but that’s okay. This one is more about the things you can do to make your environment safer. How you can make your living space less triggering for you. Think about what made you spin out and lose control of your thoughts. How can you combat that or stop it from happening again? This is usually something that takes time and consistency, but that’s good because it’s a learning opportunity to help you in the long run.
Lastly, the bottom of the page asks you to list something that is worth living for. There is no wrong answer here, so don’t feel pressured to right something in that you aren’t actually passionate about because that will just set you up for failure. It can be a dog, a dragon, art, anime, your kid, your mom, your significant other, etc. No wrong answers, just honesty with yourself is all you need. You definitely should write something so you can always have something to remind you of why you are important.
I hope this blog helps everyone as much as it’s helped me. Mental illness is something we have to stay on top of. It takes work and commitment but rest assured, YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE.
An article on PubMed presents that hospitalizations were significantly reduced after implementation of safety plans. Crisis calls were utilized more, being as that is normally a part of safety plans. Having a safety plan is one the best things we can do have to maintain stability.
Zonana, J., Simberlund, J., & Christos, P. (2018). The Impact of Safety Plans in an Outpatient Clinic. Crisis, 39(4), 304–309. https://doi.org/10.1027/0227-5910/a000495