DrDan’s Toolkit – Safety Plans: Social Contacts for Assistance

I’ve been writing about the Safety Plan as a brief suicide intervention, Tear up that no-harm/no-suicide contract, and we are moving on to the fourth step, Social Contacts for Assistance in Resolving Suicidal Crises.

The first three steps are Recognition of Warning Signs, Internal Coping Strategies, and Socialization Strategies for Distraction and Support.  If these three strategies are not effective in reducing the suicidal crisis, the next step in this process is encouraging the individual to ask for assistance from family members or friends.  This is the first time the individual may be revealing they are in crisis.

If the individual is working with a therapist or Chaplain, this is a great time to discuss with whom they might feel comfortable discussing their thoughts about suicide.  This could be a spouse/SO, close friend/buddy, Chaplain/faith leader, parent, sibling, or AA (or equivalent) sponsor.  Ask, “Among family or friends, who could you talk to during a crisis or when you are under a lot of stress?”

Two follow-up questions for this step are important. First, how likely is the individual to actually contact the person they have named?  Second, what are potential obstacles in contacting this person?  For example, perhaps the suicidal individual isn’t sure how to bring up the topic or fears the response they might receive.  Brainstorming or role playing possible words to use and potential responses may address these concerns.

It is a good idea to help the individual develop a short list of people they are willing to contact, in case their first choice is unavailable during the crisis.

In my next blog, we’ll cover the fifth step, Professional and Agency Contacts to Help Resolve Suicidal Crises.

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