DrDan’s Toolkit – Safety Plans: Socialization Strategies

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 third step, Socialization Strategies for Distraction and Support.

The first two steps are Recognition of warning signs and Internal coping strategies such as internal distractions - favorite music or movies, exercise, walking, hobbies, etc..  If these strategies are not effective in reducing suicidal ideation, Socialization Strategies encourage the individual to spend time in social settings as a way to distract themselves from their suicidal thoughts.  Being in social settings may also help the individual stop ruminating or worrying excessively about their current problems or challenges, and focus on something more positive. 

What are some healthy options for socialization?  Spending time with friends and/or family is one option.  Other social settings might include places where people naturally gather, such as malls, coffee shops, libraries, book stores, parks, or at a public performance.  Also, attending self-help meetings such as a 12-step group or similar gatherings may be a positive distraction.

Places where alcohol or other substances are present would be locations to avoid in favor of healthier social settings.

In this step, the person with suicidal thoughts does not need to share these thoughts with the people with whom they are socializing.  Nor is this intended to be a way to seek help.  The purpose of this step is distracting the individual from their suicidal thoughts and life problems.  As a corollary, socialization may help individuals feel more connected with others or increase their sense of belongingness.

In my next blog, we’ll cover the fourth step, Social Contacts for Assistance.

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