When it comes to discussions about suicide, safety planning must be a part of that conversation. Why? Well, as Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing for failure.” If you experience suicidal thoughts and/or attempted suicide in the past, you are at risk of attempt again. Coming up with a preventative safety plan helps your future self.
Safety plans are a proven suicide prevention method. It’s a tangible and/or digital manual you can turn to in a time of crisis. By writing down your triggers, supportive contacts, and things you love, you build your future self a road map out of danger to into safety. It’s recommended you keep a physical copy of your plan, even if you create a digital one. Writing down your safety plan gives it tangible weight and helps you avoid additional stress during a crisis (e.g., your cell phone is dead, you don’t have a charger, and you can’t remember your therapist’s phone number). So how do you come up with a safety plan? Answer the questions below and fill them out on this form. Your plan is unique to you. You can create one by yourself or with a friend or therapist.
What are my triggers?
Something causes suicidality to occur. It does not come to be from nothing. The first thing you want to do in developing your safety plan is to name those situations, images, thoughts, behaviors, and moods that trigger suicidality. An example: “I want to kill myself when I am at home alone.”
What can I do for myself?
There are ways we soothe ourselves when we feel distressed. It is our survival instinct. You also can take care of yourself when thinking about suicide. Identify activities that you can personally do to help yourself. An example: “I feel better when I go for a walk.”
What can distract me?
Next, you want to also write down the people, places, etc. that can distract you. These distractions can redirect your thoughts and feelings away from suicide. An example: “I can distract myself by playing video games.”
Who are my people?
You are not alone. Who are the people in your life that you feel comfortable asking for help from? Make sure to include their contact information, preferably a method of contact that would grant you near-immediate access to them (e.g., phone number).
Who can help me?
You can also turn to professional services for help. Writing down the contact information for these persons, agencies, etc. is also essential. An example: VIALINK (211).
How can I improve my level of safety?
Are there any ways that you can alter your surroundings in order to create a safer space? By removing certain tools and triggers around you, you can create a sense of security. An example: “I’m going to ask my parents to lock the medicine cabinet at night.”
Ask yourself this question: What keeps me here? Write down one of the most important things in your life that makes living your life worthwhile. This will remind you of what suicide can take away from you. An example: “Graduating from high school.”
If you’d like help making a suicide safety plan, get in touch with JFS, (504) 831-8475
If you’re in crisis:
- SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990
- Keeping Calm through COVID Hotline: 1-866-310-7977
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- New Orleans ViaLink: 211