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An Abundance of Safety Plans
If you’re not familiar with safety plans in the context of mental health, you might associate the term with fire drills or other physical emergencies. Actually, they do bear some similarities. The reason we’re encouraged to practice fire drills or have an exit plan in case of an emergency is because, understandably, we often don’t think clearly when a crisis is happening. If we have a plan made prior, that we can refer to if a crisis does occur, then we’re much more likely to get through the crisis safely. From here on out, when we use the term “safety plan” in this blog, we will be referring to those used for mental health crises.
Often, the first element of an elaborate safety plan identifies what some of your personal warning signs are for being at risk of having a mental health crisis. Try to think about the different situations, thoughts, feelings or behaviours that occur when your mental health is approaching crisis level. Being aware of what your warning signs are and noticing them when they occur may help you prevent the situation from escalating by intervening early.
A second element of a detailed safety plan might be a list of things you can do or strategies you can use independently to help yourself cope healthily. This could include anything like colouring, going for a walk, watching your favourite show, playing a game on your phone, journalling, doing a specific breathing exercise, a grounding technique, or many others.
After this, your safety plan could name supportive people in your life who you could turn to in difficult times. One important thing to remember is that these don’t necessarily need to be people you would talk to about your situation, but they may just be good people to reach out to for distraction!
Next on your safety plan could be a list of professional resources to turn to when you find that your distress or low mood isn’t improving after trying some of your coping strategies and turning to your personal supports. This could include local support lines, crisis lines, crisis centres, your nearest emergency department, or others.
The description outlined in this blog is just one approach to safety planning, and there are many out there. If you want to explore some creative approaches to safety planning, mindyourmind has a variety of printable tools you could use:
Self Care Kit - this resource sheet prompts you to identify different kinds of self care you could turn to, asks for some safety tools, as well as some therapeutic journalling ideas
Squish ‘Em Anxiety Busters - this sheet provides some tips for coping with acute stress or anxiety (either of which can lead to a crisis for some folks) and has space to add your own; a complement to this tool
Be Safe - a printable version of our Be Safe App that allows you to fill out information for emergencies and helpful safety planning prompts
If you’re currently in crisis, you can visit our Crisis page for some straightforward information on what your next steps could be, or if you want to be directed right to crisis numbers you can visit our Where to Call page.
Scarlett started as a volunteer with mindyourmind in 2012 and has been a member of the staff team since 2016. As a Psychology graduate from King's University College at Western, she is passionate about all things related to the subject and is a proud mental health advocate with lived experience.
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