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How Can I Create a Safety Plan for Severe Depression?

If you’re experiencing suicidal ideation, please call the National Crisis and Suicide hotline at 988 for help.

When you experience severe symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD), it’s important to have a safety plan in place. If you get into this mental state, then you might not be capable of thinking clearly. Your safety plan removes the need for thought by including all the crucial, personalized information. You can use this document when you become self-destructive or suicidal. Your mental health professional can help you create your safety plan if the process gets difficult.

What Goes on a Safety Plan?

Safety plans may vary slightly based on the source. However, most are fairly comprehensive. For our purposes, we’ll use the steps listed on the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline‘s “Help Yourself” page.

Step 1: Recognize the Warning Signs

First, list out your personal warning signs that you’re going into a crisis. Do you think specific thoughts? Self-deprecating thoughts may lead to suicidal ideation. For example, many people start thinking, “nothing matters.” Additionally, behaviors you start or stop may signal a crisis. Many people either emotionally eat or stop eating altogether. Others stop self-care, like showering or changing clothes. Thus, all of these should go on a safety plan.

Step 2: Identify Your Coping Skills

Next, you want to list out steps you can take to decrease the likelihood of performing self-destructive behaviors. The coping skills depend entirely on your personal preferences. Some options may include playing video games, reading a book, or watching your favorite show. Even something as simple as cuddling your pet could qualify. Ultimately, anything non-self-destructive that comforts you can go in this section.

Step 3: Find Distractions

Continuing, you need to look to your social system in this step. Decide who you can turn to for a distraction. These individuals should take your mind off the crisis. Similarly, you can list distracting locations like coffee shops or libraries. No matter who or where you include, you should put down a contact number or address.

Step 4: Find Supports

Repeating the last step, you’ll look at your social system again. This time, you need to focus on people you can talk to on bad days. These people ideally respond to difficult situations with compassion and empathy. Once again, write down their contact information.

Step 5: List Your Mental Health Resources

This step is simple. Write out your clinicians, their phone numbers, and addresses. Find your closest emergency rooms and mental facilities. Lastly, add your local crisis lines and the 988 national line.

Step 6: Establish Your “Why”

Finally, you should think about and decide on one thing that is worth living for. It can be anything big or small. Your “why” just needs to motivate you to follow your safety plan.

Living with severe major depressive disorder can feel difficult. You’re impacted every day by distressing symptoms. When you live with this for long enough, it’s easy to fall into suicidal thinking. Your safety plan can help you in moments of crisis. You don’t need to wait until the worst moment to seek help, though. At The Guest House, we can help you find the root causes of your depression. We offer medications, therapies, and support that can put you on the path to a happier life. For help, contact us at (855) 483-7800.