This is not to take the place of a suicide assessment, or professionally-developed suicide safety plan
We are calling this activity, Resilience, and Safety Planning for Students. Access to the pdf and editable PowerPoint are below. In short, this is a simple activity you do as part of a lesson that students can take with them when they meet an emotional crisis such as parental divorce, a romantic breakup, or the loss of a loved one.
It’s probably most suitable 7th grade and up.
How this works, why it works
The idea is to give every student a reminder of their reasons to live or sense of purpose and make it a class project which involves thinking about what they’d do in an emotional crisis and ways they might avoid one including identifying and using healthy coping skills and recognizing unhealthy ones. If we do this planning and they invest in the process, especially as a class, it’s likely a student will rely on it when they do meet with a personal crisis.
It’s a way to remind an individual of their
- connection to life
- healthy coping strategies they have identified as helpful
- people and trusted resources they can reach out to prior to and in crisis situations
This is not the end-all, be-all of crisis safety plans but it embodies what research has shown is the most important part of a suicide safety plan and this activity can be the bridge that keeps a student safe and connected to life.
Crisis and Safety Planning Activity Outline
What you need:
- White board and marker
- Index cards, enough that each student can have two each
Goal: Build life skills and awareness of coping strategies to manage adversity and a plan of action when life explodes in one’s face
- Ask the class to help develop a list of unhealthy and then healthy coping strategies. Start with the uhealthy ones. Then healthy strategies. (Examples: Unhealthy Strategies, Healthy Strategies) Use motivational interviewing techniques to encourage them to move ones that might not be healthy into the right column. For example, sometimes they think “retail therapy” which is buying lots of stuff to feel better, is a healthy strategy. And you can ask them what might happen if they use that strategy daily on a long term basis? Will they run out of money? Once you ask them questions and get them talking, they eventually move any marginal strategies into the right column. (The one sticky exception that I’ve run across with male college students is sex as a coping strategy. It’s not unhealthy, however, with young men we need to make sure they identify at least two other strategies as there is a subset of this population who thinks this is the only one anyone ever needs and the idea is to have a toolbox of strategies.)
- Then ask them as a group to name some “reasons for living.” This will be individual but will give students an idea of what goes in that space. It has to be something absolutely important to them and it can be one thing or 5. You can also show examples which are included in the pdf and editable PowerPoint download.
- Give each student two index cards (one in case they mess up). Make it a homework assignment–the only one that night. Ask them to write out notes from the class exercise with the headings in their notebooks. Ultimately, the goal is for them to re-write it on the index card in one of the formats below.
- Instruct them to fold this and keep it in their pocket. If they are struggling, they should pull it out and look at it at least three times a day. They can also transfer the information on the card to the Safety Plan App or a memo on their phone.
They don’t need to turn this in but you should have them show you that it’s been done, checking to see there is at least one emergency crisis resource number and at least 2 things in each section.
My question is, why aren’t we doing this with all our students?
Template for Activity:
In the first example here, the student wrote it all on one side. Which is fine.
Example card done on two sides
Get the free activity
Pdf and editable PowerPoint with examples is included.
*The index card hack is based on Veteran and psychologist Dr. Craig Bryan’s evidence-based “Crisis Response Planning” intervention and has a lot of science behind it.
While this activity does not include the entire safety planning process demonstrated, it has the most meaningful parts. As a result, we are calling it a crisis safety plan and not a suicide safety plan out of respect for what an experienced social worker/psychologist trained in suicidal intervention can accomplish.