The late night desperate phone call. The “good-bye cruel world” email. Whatever your cry for help looks like, it means you’re in crisis. You feel like you’ve got zero coping skills, you don’t have the strength to get through another hour, or you don’t know where to turn and you desperately want to die.
Deep down you know this isn’t the most effective way to ask for help. But you’re so focused on your pain you can’t think straight.
This depression-induced focus on self means you find it hard to consider the person on the receiving end of your cry for help. Likely they don’t know whether to take you seriously or what to do. In the worst case, they’ve been so frightened by these calls for help that they’ve learned to distance themselves from you.
There’s another option: crisis planning.
A crisis plan will help you get what you need:
- You can learn to head off some crises.
- You will be less anxious in a crisis knowing you have a plan.
- It will strengthen your relationships with those who want to help you.
- It will reduce the danger of suicide.
When you’re suicidal, it’s too late to plan to get help.
Planning skills won’t be one of the skills at your disposal at this time. Make a crisis plan when you’re feeling pretty OK. Here’s the relationship building part – sit down with those in your life who want to support you and discuss who should do what. Respect the preferences of your supporters!
Here’s what to put in your crisis plan:
- Your personal ‘situation critical’ signs and your corresponding mitigating actions.*
- The names and numbers of those involved in your treatment (doctors, therapists), your current medications, and any past medications that didn`t work or that you couldn`t tolerate. You might even put down the name of your actual diagnosis.
- Here`s what might be going on for me if I`m in crisis…
- Here`s what you can do to support me… (Some ideas: call my workplace, take away my car keys, drive me to the hospital, talk to me in this way…)
- Please don`t do or say the following as it won`t help…
- Here`s what I can do to help myself….
- If you think I’m suicidal, here`s what I want you to do…
- Here`s how you`ll know I`m not in crisis any more…
* A situation critical sign might be you’ve noticed you can’t stop the suicidal thoughts, you’re getting drunk and know that will make you more suicidal or whatever else tells you you’re heading out of control. A mitigating action might be to escape your current situation and try relax or call your support person to talk it out.
Pick and choose what works for you. Some of this might just be a conversation.
FYI – For a sample of a detailed crisis plan for more severe mental illness, check out this WRAP version (WRAP = Wellness Recovery Action Plan).
I don’t want to be a burden.
Is this what you’re thinking right now? That’s a normal feeling that might keep you from crisis planning. Depression makes you feel worthless and unworthy of help.
The people close to you want to help. They won’t see you as a burden if they have a say in your crisis plan, if they’re comfortable with their role and if you also support them when they need help.
A crisis doesn’t mean your recovery is over.
Relapse happens. It’s not a failure. Recovery isn’t linear.
Ideally you should learn something about yourself in a relapse or crisis so that next time you’ve got one more tool in your toolkit. Is there a new trigger you’ve noticed this time? A new warning sign? What worked well in terms of support? What should you or others do differently in case this happens again?
What tips do you have for crisis planning?
About the Author
I promote peer support and encourage people on their recovery journeys. My plan with this blog is to build a community of like-minded individuals offering ideas and encouragement from their own experiences. My master plan is to help create psychologically safe and supportive workplaces. I live in Calgary, Canada.