5.2 Supporting Their Safety

By this time, the person in need should have a safety plan in place.

Safety Plan
noun | safe-ty plan | \ ‘sāf-tē ‘plan \ 
A safety plan is an outline of personal warning signs for suicide along with coping strategies and supports a person in need can reach out to when they are struggling

Safety plans are:

  • customized, concise and easy to access during moments of crisis

  • continually reviewed to add in new coping skills and social supports

  • typically developed with a mental health clinician

To learn more about what a safety plans, take a look at this template developed by Barbara Stanley and Gregory K. Brown with the Department of Veteran Affairs. There’s also an app available to have this on your phone.

Check with the person in need to understand their safety plan. If they don’t have one in place, bring it up as something they should talk to a mental health professional about.

Below are the components of a safety plan and how they can inform your role as a suicide caregiver:

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Warning Signs

Learn their warning signs so you can help them identify when they need additional support
Example: Understand that when they are drinking more, they may be having negative thoughts they need to process in therapy.


Coping Strategies and Distractions

Promote the use of healthy coping skills and engage in identified activities
Example: Plan outdoor walks or hikes with the person in need as a distraction.

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Support Network

Know who else is in their support network and collaborate with them on care
Example: Talk to another identified support person about driving the person in need to therapy when you can’t make it.

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Crisis and Professional Support

Know who to reach out to when they are in imminent danger
Example: Call the crisis line when they start to formulate a plan for suicide.

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Safe Environment

Take part in deactivating their suicide plan as you feel comfortable
Example: Agree to keep their medication and only provide them a weekly dosage.

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Reason(s) for Living

Empathize with the person in need’s pain, but also remind them of their reason(s) for living
Example: “I know you’re going through a lot right now. At the same time, you always talk about your plans for the future and all of the things you’re excited to do.”

Playing an active role in the person in need’s safety plan gives you an opportunity to support them at a more meaningful level. While a safety plan does not mean that thoughts of suicide go away, regularly checking in and providing the type of support the person needs is what helps them through these difficult times.


© 2018 Suicide Is Different