In a natural disaster or a medical emergency, preparation can have life-saving implications. The same can be true in times of psychological distress. In today’s post, we discuss how to create a safety plan for a mental health crisis.
What Is a Safety Plan for a Mental Health Crisis?
A safety plan for a mental health crisis is a written or electronic document that identifies the steps you should take and the people you should contact if you are confronted with overwhelming emotional adversity.
Warning Signs of a Mental Health Crisis
First, an important disclaimer: It would be virtually impossible to list every warning sign for every type of mental health crisis. Don’t try to prepare for every possible contingency. Instead, focus on the types of challenges that you are most likely to encounter.
Having established that, here some common warning signs that could signal the onset of a mental health crisis:
- Significant change energy level
- Sleeping much too much or hardly at all
- Drastic increase or decrease in appetite
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating
- Disturbing intrusive thoughts
- Urge to self-harm
- Suicidal ideation
And here are some important questions to consider:
- Do any of these signs listed above apply to you? If so, which ones?
- How would you describe what it feels like when you’re on the precipice of a crisis?
- What thoughts go through your mind?
- Do you develop physical symptoms?
- Do you have difficulty perceiving the world around you?
- In the past, have your mental health crises been associated with certain situations, locations, people, or events?
While it can be uncomfortable to recall memories of prior crises, answering questions such as these can prepare you to take the most appropriate action in a timely manner. This awareness can prevent a minor setback from turning in to a major catastrophe.
Self-care strategies are an essential part of an effective safety plan for a mental health crisis. Here are some general thoughts on this section:
- As with every other part of your plan, the value of this section will depend on your ability to include information that applies directly to you.
- Don’t merely look up “self-care” online and write a random list. When a crisis approaches, you don’t want to rely on a technique that you’ve never tested.
- Be sure to include strategies or techniques that you can use in various situations. Think about what will be valuable to you if you’re in a crowd, or if you’re all alone.
The information in the self-care part of your plan should answer this question: When you first notice the warning signs of an impending crisis, what specific steps can you take to ease your distress or prevent your symptoms from becoming more severe?
Personal Support Network
If self-care or self-soothing techniques don’t resolve your problem, your next step when facing an impending mental health crisis should be to reach out to a close friend or a trusted family member.
Don’t wait until an emergency occurs to think about who you should contact and how you can get ahold of them. Make a brief list that includes names and phone numbers.
Some thoughts to consider as you put this list together:
- What will you want the people on your list to do when you contact them?
- Does your list include people who can be contacted at any time? For example, if someone on your list will be out of reach for part of every day due to their job or another responsibility, are there others on the list who will be available during that period?
- Have you discussed your needs and expectations with everyone on your list?
This final point is especially important. When people know they’re on your contact list, and understand that you may be reaching out to them in a time of crisis, they will be best prepared to provide the most meaningful support when you need them.
Professional Mental Health Treatment
The potential severity of some types of mental health crises can quickly overwhelm even the most effective self-care techniques and the concerted efforts of trusted loved ones. This is why your safety plan for a mental health crisis must include information about professional resources.
If you are anywhere in the United States, your plan should include the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can access this free resource by phone or online 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When you contact the Lifeline, a trained professional can assess your needs and connect you with appropriate services in your area.
You should also list any treatment providers that you’re currently working with:
- Are you seeing a therapist or counselor?
- Are you enrolled in a partial hospitalization program or an intensive outpatient program?
- Have you discussed your mental health concerns with your family doctor?
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, the contact information for these individuals or organizations should be in your plan.
Find Mental Health Treatment in Atlanta
You don’t have to wait until a crisis occurs before getting mental health treatment.
At Peachtree Wellness Solutions in Atlanta, Georgia, you can receive personalized residential treatment and outpatient mental health treatment for anxiety, depression, PTSD, and a wide range of other mental and behavioral health concerns.
Our mental health treatment center is a safe and welcoming place where you can work in active collaboration with a team of highly skilled and deeply compassionate professionals. With the guidance of these dedicated caregivers, you can minimize your risk for future mental health crises while developing the skills that will help you live a healthier and more hopeful life.
To learn more about how we can help, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call our center today.