The concept of the safety plan isn't new, though I can't seem to find any information online about when exactly it came to be widely used as a suicide prevention technique. Still, it's a new thing for me, so I thought I would share my experience in making one with you all, and hopefully if you or someone you love is thinking about suicide, maybe it will be helpful for you.
So first things first, I just want to relay a piece of advice my therapist gave me. A piece of paper won't save your life, so don't expect it to. If you are in crisis, reach out and get help. The idea is to keep your safety plan some place that is readily accessible to you, and go over it from time to time to cement the information it contains in your mind, so that you can learn to recognize when a crisis is developing and take steps to prevent it.
The first item on the safety plan worksheet that I filled out with my therapist (and if you want to follow along, or make a safety plan of your own you can find a blank worksheet here, courtesy of suicidepreventionlifeline.org) is warning signs. These signs should include any thoughts, images, mood, situation, or behavior that you typically experience before you start feeling suicidal. Some examples of what I put there are financial stress, anxiety and negative self talk, and I shut down and isolate myself. These aren't all of the warning signs I wrote down, by any means, and I've added a few more since my session. You should feel free to write everything that you feel might be a warning sign, because the more comprehensive your list is, the easier it will be to determine if your headed towards a crisis.
Item number two is internal coping strategies. These are things you can do by yourself to distract yourself from the negative thoughts and emotions you are having. I put recalling and writing down happy memories here, as well as spending time with my big fluffy Teddy dog. Self-care and exercise can also be good ways to distract yourself.
Items three through five are all about other people that you can reach out to. You don't necessarily have to tell everyone on that list all of the dark thoughts inside your head. Sometimes you just need a distraction, and that's ok. It's also important to know who you can call when it does become a crisis, so there are spaces on the worksheet for emergency numbers.
Step number six is making your environment safe. This is all about removing your tools of self destruction, or at least making them more difficult to access. Maybe for you this means instead of storing your kitchen knives in a butcher block, you tuck them away in a drawer. Maybe it means throwing away the box of razor blades you use to cut on yourself. You don't have to do it right away, but you should write it down, and think about doing it. You can also include things to avoid that tend to make you feel worse. This step is all about feeling safer, like giving your keys to someone else when you are drinking, so you don't drive while under the influence of alcohol.
For me that meant thinking about giving my noose to my husband, which you may be pleased to know that I actually went through with today. I won't say I'm one hundred percent ok with having done it, but I did, and it's gone.
Now there is one difference between the form I linked to, and the one my therapist had me do, and that is that my worksheet has an extra question: What can others do to help? This was a tough one for me, because I thought this was just supposed to be about helping myself. I was clueless, so my therapist suggested maybe what others can do is listen to me, and ask how I'm doing.
Finally, the last question is what is the one thing that is the most important to me, and worth living for? If you can't think of anything off the top of your head, then think about the last time you were tempted to kill yourself, but didn't. What was it that changed your mind? That's what you should write here.
Well, that's it. That is the whole safety plan. Hopefully this will be helpful to some of you. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, stay safe, and know that you can reach out to me if you need help, or just want somebody to talk to.