How to Create a Mental Health Safety Plan
Every building we go into has a fire safety plan. You learn where the exits are, you touch the doorknobs before opening a door, you come up with a meeting place, etc. We know the drill because we were taught about fire safety from a young age. But what if you find yourself facing a different kind of fire? When you go through a difficult time and begin struggling with your mental health, do you have a plan? Rather than waiting until your life is on fire to figure out what to do, what if you made a plan right now? For a practical way to prepare for life’s challenges, we encourage you use this My Safety Plan template and start practicing mental health safety.
STEP 1: Know When to Get Help
What are the signs (your appearance and behaviors) and symptoms (your thoughts and feelings) that you are beginning to struggle with a problem? Some examples of signs include: withdrawal from others, neglect of responsibilities, loss of interest in personal appearance, lack of motivation, slow movement, etc. Some examples of symptoms include: sadness, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, anger, mood swings, pessimism, impaired concentration, tendency to believe others see you in a negative light, etc.
STEP 2: Practice Healthy Coping Skills
What can you do, by yourself, to experience comfort and relief from your struggles? Some examples of healthy coping skills include: going for a walk, listening to uplifting music, exercising, spending time with a pet, taking a warm bath, and other healthy self-care activities. What obstacles might there be to using these healthy coping skills? Some obstacles include: work deadlines, family responsibilities, procrastination, etc.
STEP 3: Read Your Gratitude List
Create a list of your reasons for living, which may also be called a gratitude list. When you are feeling depressed, overwhelmed or suicidal, it is very easy to get caught up in your thoughts and feelings and forget the positives in your life. Your list can help you refocus your attention on the reasons to keep going.
STEP 4: Connect with Trusted Social Support
If you are unable to deal with your distressed feelings and thoughts alone, contact trusted friends and family members who have a track-record of providing healthy support to you in your past. List several people in case your first choices are not available. Be sure to let these individuals know that you have included them on your safety plan.
STEP 5: Seek Help from Professionals
If your problem persists, or if you have suicidal thoughts, reach out to your professional support system. For a list of numbers by County, go to: www.suicide.org/hotlines/tennessee-suicide-hotlines.html.
Find your local emergency number and professional Counselor or Agency to add to your plan.
National Suicide Hotlines:
- 1-800-799-4889 (for deaf or hard of hearing)