A mental health safety plan is a coping skills plan that walks you through what to do and what skills to use when you’re thinking about hurting yourself. If you feel like you cannot keep yourself or someone else safe, call 911 immediately.
Thinking about suicide or hurting yourself can be scary and lead to many other emotions, including sadness, anxiety, guilt, or shame. Suicidal thoughts can co-occur with many mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, substance use, and bipolar disorder, just to name a few. Suicidal thoughts might come and go, varying in strength and how much they’re on your mind. Some days you may be able to ignore these thoughts. However, when these thoughts are more persistent, having a safety plan can be really helpful.
If you begin to notice thoughts of suicide or self-harm that are distressing and feel out of your control, a great way to get started is to seek professional help by contacting a therapist, doctor, or mental health professional. Other signs that you need extra support include spending more time isolated or alone, not hanging out with friends or family, using substances, missing days of school or work, missing your extracurricular activities, or engaging in other behaviors that are not typical for you.
You can create a safety plan with your therapist, doctor, or mental health professional. You can also make one on your own or with your parents or other trusted adults. Safety plans are predominately used for thoughts of suicide. Still, they can also be used if you have thoughts of hurting yourself, hurting someone else, using substances, or engaging in other behaviors that have the potential to harm you and that you want to stop.
It’s best to create a safety plan when you are clear-headed and not currently experiencing suicidal thoughts. You can then refer back to this plan when you’re feeling hopeless or depressed. Write out your plan on a notecard, in your phone’s notes app, or in any other place where you’ll regularly be able to see it and access it.
The first step in creating a safety plan is to identify your warning signs—indicators that your mood is changing or you’re likely to start having suicidal thoughts. These warning signs might include:
After identifying your warning signs, the next step is to name your coping skills. When you’re distressed, it can be hard to think of things that help. Listing out your coping strategies in advance helps your brain go directly to what helps you and can reduce the amount of time you feel distressed. Examples of coping skills might include:
It can also be helpful to reflect on important things in your life and why you want to live. These reasons might include:
Who can you turn to when you’re having these thoughts? Your support system might include:
If you feel like you cannot keep yourself or someone else safe, call 911 immediately.
Consider how to make your environment safer.
I feel sad and lonely, I have thoughts like “no one likes me” and “I can’t take this anymore,” and I just want to lay in bed all day.
You’ll know your safety plan works if you don’t act on your thoughts to hurt yourself. If you still feel pretty down after going through your safety plan steps, you might want to consider updating your plan. Talk to your therapist or a trusted adult to come up with other ideas to add to your plan.
If you forgot you created a plan, brainstorm ways to make it more accessible. Consider sharing it with your family or friends who can remind you to use it, set it as the background of your phone, make multiple copies, or download a safety planning app to ensure you always have options available.
It’s really important for anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide or of hurting themselves to get mental health support. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, know that you are not alone, and help is available to you!
The fastest way to find relief is to connect to a licensed professional specializing in evidence-based care for teens and young adults, like the therapists at Joon Care.
If you’d like to explore therapy options and see how Joon Care can support you, you can get matched with a therapist or email us at email@example.com. You can also look at our Emergency Resources page and our round-up of Free Mental Health Resources for more ways to get support.