Helping someone to create a safety plan

It can sometimes be helpful to make a safety contract with the suicidal person. A safety contract is a verbal agreement given by the person that they won't harm themselves for a certain period of time. It usually involves a commitment from the person not to harm themselves without first making contact with an agreed person to let them know how they are in crisis and thinking of acting on their suicide plan. The nominated person must also know of the safety plan and consent to their involvement as a point of contact when the person is in crisis or danger of harming themselves. They must also have the confidence to be able to know what to do and how to act should the person contact them as part of their safety plan.

A safety plan identifies the practical steps the person can take when managing a suicidal crisis that they understand will help them regain a sense of control, and identify the support systems available to them. This plan must be achievable and realistic. 

It is important that the safety plan also includes contacts that are available at all times, such as trusted family members, 24-hour suicide helplines or mental health professional. These numbers need to be written down and easily accessible for the person in the event that their suicidal thoughts intensify and immediate assistance is needed. The contract can specify what is to happen when it is clear that the person is at imminent risk i.e., presenting at emergency at the hospital, or calling an ambulance. For more information on how to develop a safety plan, see our tip sheet Making a safety plan.