Being in the grip of suicidal thoughts and feelings can be terrifying. You may be unable to think clearly, remembering only pain from your past and unable to imagine anything good ever happening in your future. That’s why it’s helpful to have a suicide safety plan in place before you find yourself desperate. The purpose of the plan is to give you some concrete steps to follow to keep yourself safe when you feel like you can’t go on any longer.
Start creating your plan at a moment when you’re still capable of feeling some hope, and have some belief that life is worth living. If you can’t imagine feeling that way, then get someone who cares about you and knows you well to help. Start by writing down a collection of warning signs that you are starting to become severely depressed and suicidal. These warning signs will help you and others recognize when you are likely to need extra support. Examples of warning signs might be, “Withdrawing from friends and family,” or “loss of interest in hobbies.”
Next, write down a list of coping strategies that you can use to make yourself feel a bit better. Some people take a hot shower, or cuddle with a pet, or take a walk. The goal isn’t to make you feel all the way better immediately. There may be nothing that can do that. The point is to give you some things to try before you give up completely. Sometimes even feeling a tiny bit better can be enough to take your mind off suicide.
The next step is to write down the names and phone numbers of family and friends who might be able to help you when you are suicidal. You might want to call and talk to these people first and ask them if you can put them on your emergency list. If you know ahead of time that it’s okay to call someone at two in the morning when you’re at the end of your strength, then you won’t feel reluctant to call when you’re in crisis.
Finally, write a list of professional people you can call in case of emergency, along with their phone numbers. Include your doctor, counselor if you have one, and the number for the local hospital. Again, it’s a good idea to find out ahead of time what will happen if you call after hours. You don’t want to be stuck talking to an answering machine if you’re in crisis!
Share your suicide safety plan with supportive people who are close to you, so they know how to take care of you if you become suicidal. Keep it with you in your purse or wallet. If you’re worried about someone finding it and judging you, just don’t label it “Suicide Safety Plan.” Call it something like “Important Phone Numbers.”
If suicidal thoughts and feelings strike, keep going step by step through your plan until you feel safe.