Crisis Game Plan

These steps can be followed in order to help overcome a suicidal crisis.

It can be hard to think clearly when having suicidal thoughts, leading to a sense of feeling overwhelmed and forgetting all the reasons we have to live.

One way to help manage suicidal thoughts and prevent acting on them is to create a Crisis Game Plan (or Suicide Safety Plan), which has been shown to reduce the risk of suicide.[1]

The process of creating a Crisis Game Plan can itself be helpful as it reminds us of important people we have in our lives and that we have multiple resources available to us. We recommend having both a printed (e.g., on a piece of paper in your wallet) and digital copy (accessible both on- and off-line) that you can quickly and easily access.

A Crisis Game Plan consists of six steps:

  1. Listing our personal triggers for suicidal thoughts
  2. Writing out coping strategies that work for us
  3. Listing people and social settings that could be used as distractions
  4. Contact info for family members and friends who we can reach out to in a crisis
  5. Contact info or resources for accessing professional support
  6. How to make our environment safe

We’ll go through each part in detail below, and also provide an example of a Crisis Game Plan.


Though it may feel awkward at first, it can help to complete our game plans with a trusted friend/family member or professional. This can also help to reassure the people who care about us, by showing that we are taking active steps to address suicidal thoughts or urges.


Ask yourself if there are certain situations or events that trigger negative emotional spirals that tend to lead to suicidal thoughts.

These will be your warning signs, and they can vary a lot from person to person. Here are some examples to help get you thinking about your own warning signs:

  • Getting little or no quality sleep for several nights in a row
  • Feeling rejected in some way
  • Experiencing some type of failure
  • Feeling shamed
  • Doing something you feel immensely guilty about

Whenever we notice ourselves thinking about suicide, we can try to slow down and ask ourselves what set the thoughts off – if we can identify a cause, we can add this sign to our game plan. Sometimes it may be hard to determine what triggered the thoughts, but simply noticing these thoughts and slowing down to think about them can help.

Once you get better at noticing your triggers, you will be able to anticipate when you may be more susceptible to suicidal thinking, and avoid things that may set these thoughts off.


In this section, we list our strategies for managing suicidal thoughts that we can do on our own.

For example:

  • Practicing relaxation strategies, e.g., deep breathing with visualizations
  • Doing something physically active, e.g., going for a walk or jog; cycling
  • Distracting ourselves, e.g., playing an easy, stress-free video game; gardening

Another approach we can try is to create a list of “reasons to live” with all the things we care about (people, places, hobbies) or have enjoyed before (happy memories, positive experiences, or simple pleasures). When we are spiraling it can be hard to think rationally or remember times when we were happy as our thoughts are contaminated by how shitty we feel. So, if we sit down and write out what we have to live for at a time when we are feeling OK, it’s almost like having a conversation with a different, more rational version of ourselves when we read it later.


Rather than shutting down and isolating, surrounding ourselves with people we care about or moving ourselves to a more public setting can help distract you from intrusive suicidal thoughts and offer some relief from the crisis.

Think about the people and places in your life that make you feel good or that you have enjoyed in the past and write them down.

For example:

  • Go to your favourite coffee shop
  • Visit a friend
  • Sit outside in a park you like
  • Meet your friends/family at a restaurant

Try to have a few different options listed in case one isn’t available when you need it. For example, if you find suicidal thoughts come on more strongly late at night, make sure to include someone who is comfortable messaging or talking with you in later hours of the evening, or a social setting that will be open, like a 24-hour cafe.


Suicidal thoughts can be so overpowering that we forget about the people who care about us and want to help. Having their contact information on hand makes it easy to reach out during a crisis. Create a list of people you are comfortable talking with about your suicidal thoughts and who are comfortable helping you out if a crisis occurs.

Our How to Manage Suicide Risk page can provide them with direction on what they can do to help.

Try to list at least three support persons who are able to provide support, are aware of existing resources you can access, and know that they are part of your crisis plan. This way, you have a few options in case you can’t reach your first or second contact.


If the crisis continues, the next step is to contact mental health professionals or resources who can help us through suicidal crises.

If you have a therapist or mental health professional who is comfortable with you reaching out to them, you can include them in your list. Otherwise, you can add your local crisis phone or chat line, as well as the nearest hospital emergency room departments.


The final step of the crisis plan is to make our immediate environment safe and have a plan to avoid any situations or objects that could be used to end our life. Asking someone to help with this step is a good idea, so they can put things away and help make our environment safer.

For example:

  • Removing knives or firearms from your household
  • Limiting access to alcohol, drugs (prescription and non-prescription, as well as recreational drugs), and other substances that could lower your inhibitions or affect your mood negatively

Eg. of a man's crisis safety plan


The process of creating a plan can help to lessen suicidal thoughts. In the future when we’re feeling suicidal or hopeless, we can refer to our plan and walk through each step to help calm ourselves down.

If reviewing the plan doesn’t help to reduce suicidal thoughts, see our guide on what to do in a crisis for the next steps to take.


Review and make sure you are comfortable with everything in your plan:

  • Practice the strategies you’ve written down in Step 2, so you know what works best for you.
  • Imagine yourself calling each person you listed for Step 4. Is this someone you feel comfortable talking to about suicidal thoughts? If not, replace them with someone else who would be comfortable.

Make sure you and others know your plan:

  • Share your plan with a trusted friend and/or mental health professional.

Keep your Crisis Game Plan up to date

  • Your plan can be a living document, so you don’t have to think of everything at once. You can add or update notes over time.


  1. Stanley, B., Brown, G. K., Brenner, L. A., Galfalvy, H. C., Currier, G. W., Knox, K. L., Chaudhury, S. R., Bush, A. L., & Green, K. L. (2018). Comparison of the safety planning intervention with follow-up vs usual care of suicidal patients treated in the emergency department. JAMA psychiatry, 75(9), 894-900.


Additional Resources