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Create your own safety plan

Even though these thoughts may seem really overwhelming, it's important to remember that you are still in control of your body and your actions. With the right steps at the right time, these thoughts can and do go away, even if they are really full on.

It can be helpful to have a plan in place for when these thoughts come on. Follow the steps below to create your own safety plan - make sure you have a pen and paper.

Step 1. Recognise.

Think about high-risk or triggering situations (like certain people, places or thinking patterns, as well as drug and alcohol use) and do your best to avoid these or if you can’t avoid them, prepare to get support afterwards.

To do: Write down all the warning signs and triggers you recognise by answering these questions.

  • When do you start to feel worse?

  • What tends to happen before those thoughts come on?

  • Are there things that make you think about harming yourself?  Like when you are with or fight with certain people? When you drink? When you go to a particular place?

Step 2.Get rid of any ways you could harm yourself.

This may seem like a really hard step, but if you’re in a bad space, it’s best to get rid of the means so that you have some time to think about other options rather than taking steps to harm yourself.

To do: write down how you will get rid of the things around you that you could use to harm yourself or places that are unsafe for you to be.

Step 3: Grounding.

Refocusing your mind and grounding your body can help you feel safe again pretty quickly. Often this is enough for the thoughts to ease off and feel less overwhelming.

Some suggestions…

  • Do some deep and slow breathing
  • Do a meditation
  • Go for a walk
  • Listen to music
  • Make a favourite homemade meal
  • Have a cup of tea and a breather
  • Take a shower or bath
  • Have a nap snuggled under the covers
  • Writing or drawing in a journal
  • Watching TV, a dvd or Youtube clips
  • Going on social media and websites
  • Playing a puzzle or game online or on your phone
  • Read a book or magazine
  • Plan and organise the space you’re in or upcoming occasions

To do: Write a list for yourself of the things you enjoy doing that help you feel calm or uplifted. Put a star next to at least two that you know you’ll probably be able to do when you’re feeling low.

Step 4: Connecting.

If you’ve tried some of the grounding strategies and things are still feeling pretty intense, make sure you’re not alone and find ways to connect with others.

This could include…

  • Spending time with animals or pets
  • Call, txt, message or go see a friend
  • Spend time with a family member
  • Even being in a public place, like sitting in the sun in a busy coffee shop can help
  • Have a change of scene and connect with nature, like going for a walk on the beach with a friend or taking the dog for a walk in your park

To do: Write down who is in your life to support you. Check that you have all their contact details and write them down. You should have at least one adult on there that can help if things feel really full on.

Step 5: Getting Support.

If you’re feeling you may not manage on your own and you’re needing some outside help, that’s okay. There are people there to help.

Some suggestions…

  • Call Youthline on 0800 37 66 33 or free-text to the number 234
  • Call Lifeline on 0800 543 354
  • Call your local mental health crisis team. Click here for a list or ring Healthline on 0800 611 116

To do: Write down the professionals that can help, including the numbers above.

 Other tips!

  • Have one place where you keep your safety plan, or make several copies of it, so you can have one in your wallet, one at home and somewhere else where you spend lots of time.
  • Think about one person to share your safety plan with so they can help you to take steps and take care of you.
  • Think about whether you will use your safety plan when you feel the warning signs come on and what might get in the way of you using it. Think of some ways to overcome those barriers.
  • Don’t wait before taking actions to stay safe. Even if it doesn’t feel that bad, if you have the sense today won’t be such a good day, make sure you take extra care of yourself and take it easy.