From a young age we are instructed on what to do in the event of an emergency. We are taught set strategies for varying occasions and situations that may arise. We have drills in school so often, you might even expect there to be a designated period just for that.
If there’s one thing a California kid such as myself knows best, it’s how to dive under a desk and contort my body to fit under it for long periods of time. (Midwest folks, please replace this earthquake scenario with tornados, and east coasters with hurricanes.)
Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate the lifesaving knowledge (I’m always down for a little stop, drop, and roll action)—I just wish someone would have taught us what to do when the fire, earthquake, or snowstorm happens in our minds.
Growing up, my mom always vocalized the “safety first” state of mind. That rule didn’t necessarily stop me from doing irresponsible things, but I did always wear a helmet while doing them. Your mental health should be treated no differently. It is no less dire or deserving of protection just because it cannot be seen. We need to learn how to create elbow and knee pads for our mental health.
If you’ve ever experienced suicidal thoughts, you know how scary it can be to feel as though there are no other options to make the pain stop. But the truth is, you do have options. There are people that want to help you. There are resources available to you. And being aware of those options can help you be more prepared if you or someone you know ends up in that situation.
A safety plan can look like anything you want it to, but for the purpose of simplicity, I will mention a few essentials. (Feel free to get more in depth if you’d like.)
You can write these ideas on a sticky note, create a poster to hang on your wall, type them into your phone, or all of the above. The most vital thing is that you have easy access to them.
- Crisis Text Line: You can text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected with a trained counselor for free (even consider adding them as a contact in your phone).
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK 
- A local crisis number for your area, which often times has mobile response teams that will come help you out (hit up Google to check if there’s one that services your area).
- 911. This one might seem obvious to some, and too intimidating of an option to others. If you do feel intimidated by it, please know that it’s what 911 is there for—it exists to help individuals who are in danger. It exists to protect people, and you are worth protection.
Additional options (you can exclude these if you do not think they will be of service to you):
- The phone numbers of a few people who you trust and you feel you could talk to and even help you to find professional resources.
Side note: Be prepared for the possibility that these people may not answer their phones. That is not because they do not love you or do not care for your wellbeing. Try to not let that deter you from utilizing the other options on your safety plan either.
- List or include a few things that give you joy and provide you with hope. Maybe it’s a picture of your dog, or a picture of a mountain you have yet to climb. It could be the words, “Mom and Dad” or, “to see tomorrow’s sunset.” It doesn’t have to be anything grand, just something to remind you that there is still beauty in the world.
- Write a letter to yourself. On a day you have a glimmer of hope, write a letter telling yourself that you have seen it once and you will see it again. If you can’t quite see it yet, please use this:
Please don’t go. Choose to stay and choose to fight this. It may seem like everything inside you wants the pain to end, but there is a reason you are still here. Allow these words to be your spark. Hold on to this tiny bit of light and weather this storm. Please reach out for help. You are not a burden, your problems are not too big or too small to be spoken about with others. You are meant to take up space in this world. There are people that love you, there are people you love. Stay for them, and if that’s not enough for you then hold on to this: There will be someone someday that needs to hear the story of your strength. Maybe she’s a 12-year-old girl sitting at a bus stop, thinking that middle school is too hard and she can’t bear it anymore. Maybe it’s a parent struggling to have a relationship with their kids, thinking their children might just be better off without them. Maybe it is your child who doesn’t know yet that it’s okay to ask for help. You have beat this every single day and this time will be no different. You know what to do, you have the tools, you can do this, champ. They need you, the whole world needs you. You exist to be heard and to be loved. Keep reaching, keep choosing to stay.
Earthquakes are powerful but they do not last forever. Eventually you will be able to crawl back out from under the desk. These thoughts may be overwhelming and scary, but they are not more powerful than you. Asking for help is one of the bravest things a person can do. I am so proud of you for choosing to stay, you are worth the fight.
Please note that I am not a mental health professional. I highly encourage you to reach out to a friend, family member, or someone else you trust, to help you find professional help. Our Find Help page or Google can also be a good place to start looking for resources near you.
If you are struggling and want advice about how to reach out or you need help finding resources near you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.