How do I make a suicide safety plan for a relative who has mental illness?

If your relative with serious mental illness (SMI) has shown suicidal tendencies in the past, it is likely that she/he may show these again in the future. For this reason you should be as prepared as possible. The family crisis plan described here is for advanced planning. Though it is not possible always to forestall suicidal action, the plan may enable quick hospitalization and treatment.
  • It is recommended that the whole family, including if possible, the ill person when they are having a good period, have input into the Family Crisis Plan. Write it down in simple language and put it where you can easily find it. Give each member of your support team a copy of the Plan. This work is exhausting. Do not try to work with your unwell relative by yourself. Involve your family and any mental health professionals who care for your relative.
  • Watch out for continuing symptoms that signify unrest or anxiety in your relative.
  • Note the names and telephone numbers of those willing to keep the person and the family safe in crisis situations.
  • Note down how hospital procedures work; know the names and telephone numbers of the professionals you need to call. If your relative is admitted to hospital find out the name of the doctor in charge of your relative and be prepared to talk to him in a calm and business-like manner to make sure you are kept informed.
  • If your country has mental health laws, learn about how these laws will affect you if your relative needs involuntary hospitalization or if s/he attempts suicide.
  • Learn in advance whether a doctor will be able to admit your relative for treatment as a willing or unwilling (involuntary) patient. Learn the best way to attempt to admit your relative, e.g., through his doctor or through the emergency department.
  • Some police forces have emergency task forces that have specialists in suicide available. Find out whether this is available from your police service.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.