Stay Home, Stay Well: Creating a Suicide Safety Plan
Written by: Arielle Karoub
Recently, I heard parents talking amongst each other about how they would explain a specific situation to their teenager. One of the parents asked if they should use the word suicide or phrase the conversation differently.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young people aged 10-34. Children, teenagers, young adults—they know what is happening around them. They might not know the terminology or why suicide happens, but they are aware. If we can harness this awareness with education and resources, imagine how much more resourceful those around us will be when it comes to suicide prevention and mental health awareness.
Critics may say that if you bring more attention to suicide, more suicides will happen. But studies have found that having access to mental health resources increases individuals’ chances of reducing suicide. Access to mental health resources includes easy access to medical interventions and support groups, effective clinical care for mental disorders, and family and community support. All of these mental health resources include actually talking about suicide and being educated on suicide prevention.
How can we join together to bring awareness for suicide prevention? According to Americas Health Rankings, in 2017, there were an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts and more than 47,000 deaths by suicide, making it the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Everyone is affected by suicide. Suicide does not discriminate. No racial or ethnic group has been spared in the rising rates of suicide.
Knowing the signs of suicide is also helpful in order to know what to do if someone around you is suicidal. Research shows that 4 out of 5 suicide deaths are preceded by warning signs. If the warning signs are there, how can we help that person get access to mental health resources?
The goal is to bring awareness to every community about suicide prevention and stop the stigma of mental illness. According to the American Psychological Association, there is an urgent need for more research to seek out evidence-based ways to prevent suicide and help those who struggle with suicidal ideations.
Tips for Creating a Suicide Safety Plan
If you or your loved one have signs of suicidal ideations, it is best to work together to create a safety plan. To create a safety plan, start with making one with someone you trust like a best friend, close family member, doctor, or therapist. It is important to get someone involved because they might be part of your safety plan and it’s best that they know the current situation. For example, you might write down your best friend as someone to call if actively suicidal. Create the safety plan when you are feeling well and can think clearly. Once you are done with your safety plan, make sure you put it in writing and in a safe place, as well as provide copies to those you trust.
Here are some details you should include in a safety plan:
- When the safety plan will take effect: Meaning that when you have suicidal urges, you will utilize your safety plan. If the person that you trust has a copy of your safety plan, they can assist you in utilizing the safety plan as well.
- Who you will call: Keep a list of contacts that you trust along with their contact information so that it’s readily available to reach out for help.
- A list of activities that comforte you: For example, if listening to music or puttin an ice pack on your neck helps calm you and soothe you, make sure that you put that in your safety plan to follow.
- Your Reason for Living. When you are in pain, you can forget all the reasons to live. Make sure you include the things that keep you going.
- Medical and professional assistance. Write down the local mental health clinics, crisis hotlines, therapists, and other members of a medical profession that can be part of your safety plan.
Remember that you are not alone, and you don’t have to do this on your own. Please reach out to your local NAMI chapter to find resources, community events, and support groups that can help you. Also, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, please call 911.
Stay Home, Stay Well is NAMI Wake’s new blog and video series focused on our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In our attempt to create a more mentally healthy community, we will be providing resources each week. We know this is a difficult time in everyone’s lives right now. Our hope is that you find helpful tips, information, and resources in this series on how to stay mentally well at home.