Suicide safety planning
If life’s problems are starting to feel too painful and difficult to manage that you're having suicidal thoughts and feelings, there are things you can do to help you get through.
This article is based on a piece originally published on Beyond Blue website.
What is safety planning?
Having thoughts of suicide can feel overwhelming. You may find it really hard to know what to do or be feeling in such emotional pain that you don't think you're able to cope.
At times like these, hurting yourself or ending your life might feel like the only answer. If life’s problems are starting to feel too painful and difficult to manage that you're having suicidal thoughts and feelings, there are things you can do to help you get through.
A safety plan is something for you to use at these times, to bring together all your coping resources in a series of steps:
- Recognising your warning signs
- Making your surroundings safe
- Reminders of reasons to live
- Things that can make you feel strong
- People and places to connect with
- Family and friends you can talk or yarn with
- Professional support
Research has shown that having a safety plan can be useful in reducing the intensity and increasing the ability to cope with suicidal thoughts.
While everyone's plan is personal and different, it can help in the same way.
What is Beyond Now?
Beyond Now - suicide prevention planning
Sometimes life can be overwhelming and suicide can seem like the only way to end the pain.
To help you get through those moments Beyond Blue has created an app called Beyond Now.
You can use it to create a step-by-step plan to help you stay safe in those times when you're overwhelmed and can't think straight.
Here are some ideas. Know your warning signs so you can act early. Are you having trouble sleeping? Avoiding family or friends? Getting into more conflict than usual?
Make a list of things that are important to you, this could be your mates, your pet or that holiday you've been planning.
Think about ways to create a safe environment. Get rid of anything you could use to harm yourself.
What are some of the ways you could distract yourself from suicidal thoughts? Take a bath, read a book or do something you love.
Coping with suicidal thoughts can be hard, just being around other people can be a good distraction. You could visit the gym, or go to the park.
Reach out to someone you trust. Let them know what's going on for you.
Bring trusted people in on your plan: share it with your partner, your counsellor or your GP.
Remember help is always available.
The red telephone icon provides you with a list of all your emergency contacts.
Beyond Now is an app that helps you make your own safety plan to support you through times of sadness or grief. You can make the plan on your phone and carry it around with you to access anywhere and anytime.
The app will guide you through, step-by-step, with suggestions at each stage if you get stuck. You can work through this process by yourself, but it’s better if a family member, an Elder, health professional or support person works with you to make your plan. You can update it anytime and easily share it with others if you want.
Beyond Now is free to download from the Apple Store or Google Play and if you don’t have a smartphone, it’s also online.
Beyond Now is designed to be used as part of an overall mental wellbeing and safety strategy. It is not intended to be the only form of support.
Nic’s experience with safety planning
Safety planning was first brought to me through my psychologist, who I was seeing at the time.
I was talking about, you know, suicidal thoughts and I was quite depressed. I didn't feel like many things were going my way.
My experience of safety planning is quite a positive one. I made my safety plan three years ago. It's been there through lots of times, I have referred to it a good number of times.
I lucklily don't need to refer it it too much now days, which is quite good. It's just a big list of all the positive things in my life and all the things I know I'm good at.
The most times I feel depressed, I am by myself, and knowing that I'd have a list there of 'hey, these are activities that I can do by myself which will kind of bring me up, is s really key thing for me.
Being able to have a long list of friends and professionals that will help
you the drop of a hat to drop everything and help. And I have used that many a times, and they always pull through for me.
My safety plan now includes music, watching certain shows, or certain episodes of shows, that pretty much pick me up. Walk down to the river. Even to the simplest of 'just breathe'. Just long deep breaths, just counting to 10. Long deep breaths.
Pretty much anything which puts me in a positive mind frame, and things that will make you really appreciate what you've got.
Because it's so much easier to just lay there and kind of sit in your sorrows and be sad for yourself. But if you've got a list of things that you know are going to make you feel better, that's at least one way to start.
The app is pretty much a digital version of what I'd normally have at home. But being the fact that if I could take that outside of home, just sitting in my pocket.
I think it's absolutely brilliant. You never know when you're gonna start feeling depressed. So just being able to grab it, knowing that you've always got it and you're not going to misplace it.
Everything is laid out nice and simply, so if I do just want to target one specific thing on the app. I can just go 'look, whats going on?' and I can just, you know, kind of pull myself out of it and know that life is worth living.
You never know when you're gonna start feeling depressed...if you've got a list of things that you know are going to make you feel better, that's at least one way to start.
What can I put into my safety plan?
For each step, think about what will work for you. Your safety plan should reflect you – things that are helpful, as well as what to look out for or avoid.
My warning signs
Warning signs are changes that let you know you're heading into a crisis. Knowing your warning signs can help you act early. You might notice changes in your thoughts, or your feelings. You might feel physical symptoms, or it might be an outside trigger or event. What are your warning signs?
Make my space safe
Once you know your warning signs, you need to make your space as safe as you can. Get rid of stuff that could be used to end your life. It can be helpful at this step to involve a loved one or trusted friend, e.g. giving medication or car keys to someone else to look after.
Reasons for living
When you're feeling suicidal, it's easy to forget about the good things in life. Thinking about these things can help you manage until the feelings pass. Write down things that make you want to live - big or small. In the app version of Beyond Now, you can also include photos here.
Things I can do by myself
Doing things to distract yourself from suicidal thoughts can help keep you safe and build your confidence and coping skills. Here is where you can list some of the things you like doing by yourself.
People I can connect with
Connecting with people and places is important and can make you feel better. In this step, make a list of people you could spend time with – either physically or virtually.
People I can talk or yarn to
If you’re still struggling with your thoughts, then it’s time to reach out to people you trust who can help you stay safe and feel better. Here is where you list the people you can talk or yarn to when you feel suicidal. It’s a good idea to share your plan with the people you list here.
If you’ve worked through all of your steps and are still feeling overwhelmed, then it’s time to seek professional support. Here is where you can list the services that work for you. You can add numbers direct from your phone contacts here, so you can call them with one touch.
Creating your safety plan
Pick a time when you’re feeling calm and settled to create your plan. You can download the app version, or use the web version:
This article offers advice for people who are supporting someone who is feeling suicidal.