Creating a Safety Plan

Creating a Safety Plan | TheSunnyShadow.com >> Click to Read >>*Trigger Warning: may contain triggers surrounding suicidal thoughts and ideation.

In my last post I shared that I’ve been depressed as of late. I also shared that my suicidal ideations have become more pronounced. At this point they’re thoughts that I’m able to redirect. But the red flag that keeps popping up in my mind is that my previous attempts were impulsive. Impulsivity is a common predisposition among those with bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses. This is one reason why I believe a Safety Plan would greatly benefit me, and potentially many others living with bipolar disorder.

Intense suicidal thoughts are often temporary. Safety Plans put on the brakes and help us get safe.

What Is a Safety Plan?

A Safety Plan is a document we create to help us stay safe when we’re having thoughts of self-harm. It’s a concise, step-by-step plan of action. Once we’ve been triggered or become aware of our warning signs, we activate our Safety Plan and carry-out each step in order. We thoroughly develop this plan with someone we trust, like a healthcare provider or a close friend or family member.

Safety Plans are different from No-Harm Contracts, as they are plans of action. Research has questioned the efficacy of no-harm contracts. For many reasons, but one being that they’re not that effective in actually preventing suicide.

Do You Need a Safety Plan?

Some people have higher suicide risks. For example, those with a history of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, and/or substance abuse all run a greater risk.

It’s important to know the warning signs of suicide.

I found the acronym below helpful, it comes from the American Association of Suicidology. But there are many more. I suggest reading Suicide Warning Signs & How to Help Prevent Suicide.

IS PATH WARM?

Ideation | Substance Abuse | Purposelessness | Anxiety | Trapped | Hopelessness | Withdrawal | Anger | Restlessness | Mood Changes

How to Create a Safety Plan

Safety Plans should be completed when we’re clear-headed. That is, when we’re in a mindset that we can be honest with ourselves and others. Everyone listed on the Safety Plan should receive a copy.

Sarah Emmerling from Bipolar Bytes has created two amazingly thorough Safety Plan templates that I highly recommend. They come with instructions too. And she’s generously offered to share them with all of us! → Safety Plan Template 1: PDF to download, edit, and email! – OR – Safety Plan Template 2: PDF to print and copy!

If you’d rather write your own, without using a template, here’s a brief guide. Remember, be specific and detailed. Carry out your plan in order. It’s best if you keep it on you at all times. And give everyone listed their own copy.

  • Identify Triggers & Warning Signs:
    • What sends me spiraling to a place where I think of harming myself?
    • What are warning signs my friends and family should look for?
    • What are thoughts, feelings, and/or emotions I have that signify a potential for self-harm?
  • Identify Coping Strategies:
    • What can I do to calm or distract myself? What works best for me? {externally}
    • How can I change my thought patterns? Reframe my thinking? What works best for me? {internally}
    • How can my family and friends help? What should they do and not do?
  • Identify Contacts:
    • Who should I contact to distract me, and who does so in a healthy and positive manner? {list several people and phone numbers}
    • Who should I contact in a crisis situation, and who can respond immediately? {list several people and phone numbers}
    • Who should my family and friends contact in the case that my judgement is impaired? {ex: psychiatrist, therapist, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK{8255}
  • Identify Reasons for Living:
    • What are my reasons for living?
  • Identify Ways to Make Environment Safer to Prevent Self-Harm:
    • How can I make my environment safer to prevent self-harm? {remove firearms??}
    • How can I minimize triggers?

Do you already have a Safety Plan? Do you feel that it’s helped you?

Remember, you are NEVER alone. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK{8255}

Krista-Lee-Pfeiffer


2 comments on “Creating a Safety Plan
  1. Joy says:

    Thank you thank you! I’m not suicidal, but self-harm has been almost a decade long struggle (I didn’t even realize what I was doing the first 5 years). This can help me do something and don’t brush off and be a “tough girl”

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