12 Benefits Of Having A Safety Plan
When I was researching for my blog post for Suicide Prevention Day (Suicide And Suicide Prevention), I came across a coping strategy I’d long forgotten: a safety plan. Thus, I’ve decided to create a safety plan template anyone could use to help them stay safe.
You might also want to check out my previous post, Suicide And Suicide Prevention, because it contains some advice on how to help someone who’s suffering from suicidal thoughts and feelings.
Before I carry on with this post, please remember that it’s really important to speak to someone if you’re feeling suicidal or you’re worried you’ll harm yourself. Please visit my page Global Crisis Lines And Support for a list of global crisis lines, hotlines, chat services, and text services if you need to talk to someone.
What Is A Safety Plan?
There are two main types of safety plans. The first is a safety plan that covers what you could do to avoid or manage a future event where you’re at risk of harm. For example, a plan of what you could do the next time you feel suicidal. This kind of safety plan allows you to follow a guide created by yourself when you’re in a rational and stable state. Allowing your more unstable self to benefit from your wisdom and knowledge, during a time when it’s harder to access that.
The second type of safety plan is a plan you use in the moment, when you’re at risk of harm. Effectively, it’s a worksheet to help keep you busy and distracted whilst the risk to yourself passes. For example, if you’re struggling with thoughts of self-harm this would give you something to do to help distract yourself until the thoughts pass.
Two Groups Who Could Benefit Most From Creating A Safety Plan
There are two main groups of people who could benefit most from having a safety plan: those who self-harm and those who struggle with suicidal thoughts and feelings.
Remember, anyone could reach a state where self-harming and thinking about taking your own life could happen. Mental health problems don’t discriminate.
The @NHSuk states that the current estimate for young people who self-harm is at around 10%. But people from other age groups also self-harm Click To Tweet
Thoughts and feelings of self-harm and wanting to end your life are more common than most people would believe. According to WHO, suicide rates are estimated at being around 793,000 worldwide in 2016.
It has been reported that a history of self-harm can be an indicator of a higher risk that someone might try to take their own life. According to Chan, et al. (2016), 32% of people who attempted suicide had a prior history of self-harm.
This is supported by Morgan, et al. (2017). Whose team found that self-harming children and adolescents were 17 times more likely to die as a result of taking their own lives than those who don’t self-harm.
However, just because there’s a link between the two, doesn’t mean the two can be grouped together. The difference in mindsets between the two are quite different, which some people might be surprised to hear. But bear with me and let me try to explain why.
Each year, 1 in 5 females and 1 in 7 males engage in self-injury, according to Healthyplace.com Click To Tweet
Suicide typically comes from a place of despair, hopelessness, and worthlessness. Those who want to end their lives want the pain to stop and they intend to make the suffering stop through ending their lives.
Whereas self-harming is normally an unhealthy coping strategy to help them cope with life so they can carry on living. They’re just looking for a form of release and relief to ease their emotional pain.
Because of these differences, it is advisable to have a different plan for each possible situation you’re at risk of. This is because the best way to manage each risk will be different.
For example. If you’re unable to stop self-harming, then the next best thing is harm reduction. Completing the safety plan will help you develop coping strategies, which you’ll also be able to hone and develop as you figure out which strategies work best for you. This will lead to you better being able to manage your self-harming thoughts and feelings. Which, in time, will lead to you no longer self-harming.
According to gov.uk, there are 4,500 suicides each year in England, and around 13 people end their lives every day Click To Tweet
Problem-solving skills are meant to function as a protective factor for managing suicidal thoughts and feelings, although the evidence isn’t strong. But if true, then creating a safety plan, and updating it, should help you develop better problem-solving skills, which will help you better protect yourself from yourself.
Furthermore, a safety plan helps you plan in advance for the possibility of a future where you could find yourself in a suicidal despair state. Having a safety plan will allow you to take the steps needed to help you navigate this situation a lot easier than you might otherwise have.
Filling in the safety plan workbook will help give you something to distract yourself with until the thoughts and feelings pass. Whilst at the same time allowing you to better prepare yourself for future episodes.
The pre-planned safety plan will also help to distract you, by giving you a pre-thought out plan to help you navigate the situation. Which should make handling such episodes easier.
Both safety plan documents might even help you realise what makes you self-harm (to gain control, to deal with difficult emotions, for relief, and to punish yourself), or what leads you to your suicidal episodes, and thus enables you to work on those issues.
12 Reasons To Have A Safety Plan
- Safety plans will allow you to pre-plan for when you’re in a state of despair and can’t think clearly, allowing you to navigate this situation easier.
- A safety plan will contain the information you need to help you handle the situation(s) you’ve planned for.
- A safety plan could help you reduce the likelihood the situation you’re planning for will happen. But if the situation does still happen, it should help reduce its severity.
- It’s a simple solution to help with a complex problem.
- Creating a safety plan will help you recognise your triggers, what makes it worse, and what can help. Which will help you better manage it in the long term, especially if you stay on top of updating it and share your plan with a professional as part of your treatment.
- They can be of help even if you’re not in a crisis.
- It can give you a small sense of reassurance, because you’ve prepared yourself for how to handle the situation(s).
- If you’re comfortable in doing so, it’s something you can share with your friends and family so they will also know how to best help you in such a situation.
- To keep you or a loved one safe.
- Basically, to help stop thoughts and feelings of self-harm and suicide turning into actions.
- Giving you back control for when you might not feel like you have any.
- Using a safety plan could help you with your long-term recovery goals.
What Else Could You Do?
You could create a comfort box filled with the things you like, such as photos of the people you care about, snacks you enjoy, favourite quotes and song lyrics, gifts from someone you care about, and/or anything that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences of creating and/or using a safety plan in the comments section below as well. If you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up to my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications of new posts by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom left corner.
Lastly, if you’d like to support my blog then you can make a donation of any size below also. Until next time,
Unwanted Life readers.
Chan, M., Bhatti, H., Meader, N., Stockton, S., Evans, J., O’Connor, R., Kapur, N., & Kendall, T. (2016). Predicting suicide following self-harm: Systematic review of risk factors and risk scales. British Journal of Psychiatry, 209(4), 277-283. Retrieved from doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.115.170050 https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/predicting-suicide-following-selfharm-systematic-review-of-risk-factors-and-risk-scales/C9D595168EDF06401A823E2E968915E1/core-reader
Morgan, C., Webb, R. T., Carr, M. J., Kontopantelis, E., Green, J., Chew-Graham, C. A., Kapur, N., & Ashcroft, D. M. (2017). Incidence, clinical management, and mortality risk following self harm among children and adolescents: cohort study in primary care. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 359. Retrieved from doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4351 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641980/