You might not like the idea of planning for something you hope won’t happen. But it could help to think about what you could do if you start to approach a crisis in the future, and plan what kind of support you think you might want.
This is an empowering and positive step you can do for yourself.
What is a safety plan?
A safety plan is a list that sets out how someone would like to be supported and what they can do to help themselves when they feel in crisis or unable to keep themselves safe from harm. It’s also a good way of keeping important information and contacts together in one place and can be useful to share with those closest to you.
Try to make a plan when you can think clearly about what you find helpful. You might want to complete the plan with someone you trust, such as a friend or therapist. You could also give them a copy of the plan to keep.
This plan is personal to you, and may include:
- how to recognise your warning signs
- details of your own coping strategies, such as what has helped you cope in the past and what you can do to help yourself now
- contact details of people you know who may be able to help
- the names and contact details of professionals or agencies you can contact if you are crisis
- helplines and listening services who can help you in a crisis
- steps you can take to make your immediate environment safe
- details of a safe place you can go to, if you need to
- affirmations and reasons to keep going
“Making a crisis or safety plan, felt like I was saying I didn’t trust myself, or guaranteeing things would get worse, but actually it helped give me back control when I felt I had none. It reminded me of who I was and what helps me when you lose yourself and also not to feel guilty or selfish about doing those things if I feel unable to keep myself safe.”
– Alice, DMYH Young Ambassador
Examples of what to include in your plan:
Our Young Ambassadors share example of what they would include in their own safety plans below. These can give you some ideas for your own and show you that anyone may need a safety plan.
Early warning signs
“These are some of the things I know from other times that tip me off to my mental health getting worse: withdrawing, isolating and spending more time alone, stop eating/little interest in food, losing interest in things I enjoy.” ~ Alice
“My common warning signs are: fatigue, sickness (feeling of being sick as well as being physically sick), shortness of breath, headaches and a sense of emotional overload.” ~Emily
Reasons to live/ affirmations
“I try to repeat to myself that I am loved by many people, my parents, my girlfriend, my friends. I know they believe in me and that there are things I still wanted to do with my life, even if I don’t believe in them write now, like write, travel and help others.” ~ Alice
“Write down 5 things that you are grateful for each day.” ~ Rosie
“I remind myself that these feelings will pass and look to this quote by Matt Haig “When you are open about depression and anxiety people mark you down as a miserable person. I’m not a miserable person. I’m an intense person. When I feel happiness or love I feel those things intensely, and I feel pain intensely. It’s the price of feeling.” ~ Emily
“I spend time expressing how I feel through my art journal where I draw or write my feelings.” ~ Alice
“I spend time attending to some grounding activities. Something that works best for me (as it can be used everywhere) is the ‘5 4 3 2 1 Grounding technique’. First, 5 things you can see, then 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and finally, 1 Good thing about me.” ~ Olivia
“I often go for walks or go to the gym to think about the issue and why I feel like that, getting some exercise helps me with my mental health a lot.” ~ Claudia
“When I can feel that my mental wellbeing is low, I first check myself and try to determine what may have caused it to see if it is a problem that I can fix or if it is one that is out of my control. Usually it is a combination of both, so I start with self-care in order to build foundations for the things that I can’t control.” ~ Lydia
“I think practicing mindfulness/being in the moment is one of the most practical and useful forms of self care.” – Ara
“When I feel anxious I calm myself down in many different ways: reading, exercising, crafting). Yet, the most simple but effective way of helping me during times of struggle is listening to music.” ~ Emily