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An Overview of Safety Planning

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Every person, family and being deserves to feel safe in their day to day life. But being safe doesn’t happen by accident, it takes intention and time to prepare for those life crises and emergencies that are often our worst case scenario or even our everyday life, to some. Whatever your situation may be, safety planning is an important tool to know, understand and be able to implement in your life. In order to reduce those feelings of overwhelm and nerves surrounding safety planning, this article will break down safety planning into a general overview of what a safety plan is, why it is important and how you can use it in your life.

What is a Safety Plan and Why is it Important?

As each person or family’s situation is unique, so is their safety plan. A safety plan is a personalized, practical written plan that is thought about in advance outlining the best way to respond to difficult or dangerous situations (What Is Safety Planning? 2019, April 12). Safety plans are important in addressing safety concerns (internally or within an environment) and identifying a process of how to increase the safety of who it is written for. Essentially, they are a resource based to-do list that are protective steps in keeping someone safe. Safety plans can be written for a variety of reasons; ranging from suicidal ideation, domestic violence, to addressing how to safely respond to your child’s aggressive behaviors.

Tips for Creating and Using a Safety Plan

  • It is important to work with someone you trust. This could include a family member, a best friend, a therapist, a counselor or your doctor. It is important to include this person in the planning stages as they will most likely be called when your safety plan comes into action (Creating a Safety Plan: Self-Care: The Kim Foundation 2019, July 29).
  • It is best to create this plan when you are not currently in a crisis and you are able to think clearly.
  • Below is a list of some important steps to include in your safety plan (Brodsky, Spruch-Feiner, & Stanley, 2018).
  1. Identify the problem. What is the safety concern? (i.e. depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, anger outbursts, etc.)
  2. Identify the triggers that negatively influence the problem. (i.e. when are symptoms more noticeable or when do they increase?)
  3. Identify the warning signs of when the problem is occurring. This can include how your body is responding (i.e. clenched fists, seeing the color red, sweating, feeling hot, etc.).
  4. Identify the coping skills that you can use in the moment. (i.e. mindfulness, going outside, talking to someone, using fidgets, etc.).
  5. Identify your safe supports who you can talk to when in crisis. (i.e. family, friends, pastor, mentor, etc.).
    1. Identify professional, crisis and emergency response personnel who can provide further support if the strategies above do not reduce/eliminate the safety concern. (i.e. therapist, 24-hour crisis line, law enforcement, etc.)
  6. Keep a hard copy of the safety plan, so you can access it when a crisis situation occurs.
  7. Create a backup safety plan in case the initial plan fails (What Is Safety Planning? 2019, April 12).

Article Written by: Sarah Sandvik, LSW MSW Clinical Intern

Resources

Overall, there are many things that go into creating an effective safety plan. You can find a template to create your own safety plan at:  https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Brown_StanleySafetyPlanTemplate.pdf . If you need help creating a plan for you or someone you love, please call **CRISIS (**274747) or Text “MN” to 741741 to receive help from a local advocate. Additional crisis resources can be found at: https://namimn.org/support/resources/crisis-resources/.

References

Brodsky, B. S., Spruch-Feiner, A., & Stanley, B. (2018). The Zero Suicide Model: Applying Evidence-Based Suicide Prevention Practices to Clinical Care. Frontiers in Psychiatry9. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00033 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5829088/

Creating a Safety Plan: Self-Care: The Kim Foundation. (2019, July 29). Retrieved from https://www.thekimfoundation.org/blog/creating-a-safety-plan/

Developing A Safety Plan. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://envisioncounsellingcentre.com/innerpage/resources/partner-abuse/developing-a-safety-plan/

What Is Safety Planning? (2019, April 12). Retrieved from https://www.thehotline.org/2013/04/10/what-is-safety-planning

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