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What’s your plan? Overcoming a crisis through safety planning.

There is a growing and under-addressed mental health crisis, which has drawn awareness to the distress young adults are experiencing throughout the U.S. Suicide is the second most leading cause of death within college students, and the rates of suicide has rapidly increased in recent years. Prior to the pandemic, over one in four college students were diagnosed with a mental health disorder, while 23.7% were at higher risk of suicide (American College Health Association, 2020). A sample taken from 2020 to 2021 interviewed 16,000 graduate and undergraduate students in the U.S., and reported that 13.4% of students expressed having suicidal ideations, 5.4% had plans to commit suicide, and 1.3% made suicidal attempts (DeVylder, Zhou, Oh, 2021).

With the stressors of life and college combined, the mental state of young adults can at times be unstable. It is estimated that a campus with a total population of 10,000 students will see one student suicide in 2-3 years, roughly about three students in a 2-3 year basis for a campus of 30,000 (Illinois Department of Health, 2016)

If you or someone you know is experiencing feelings of suicide, please reach out for help and develop a safety plan. Safety plans are usually aimed to help people with suicidal ideations, or other self harm tendencies. Typically, a safety plan is a list of coping skills and sources of support you can use when or if you are having suicidal thoughts, feelings, or intentions. Creating a safety plan can help you navigate your life at university, while creating healthy patterns and tools to use in your future. Below are a few coping strategies you could include in your safety plan, that can help reduce these feelings of hopelessness.

  1. Journal

Journaling is a great source that many people use for an array  of reasons. Writing down your thoughts or feelings can be a good way to distract yourself from any self harm thinking. Remember, that what you’re feeling is temporary and writing down these thoughts can help create distance, while providing an outlet.

2. Distract Yourself

Aside from journaling, there are many other ways you can distract yourself from these feelings. Below are a few things you could try to promote effective distraction.

  •  Read a book

  • Watch a favorite tv show or film

  • Exercise

  • Draw or paint

  • Spend time with loved ones or pets

3. Express Gratitude

The third strategy you could use is similar to journaling, but instead of writing your feelings, make a list of what you are grateful for. Take a moment to reflect, and create a gratitude list of things that you appreciate or are thankful for today. You can also come back and read over this list whenever you are experiencing suicidal thoughts. This can help ground you and bring you back to a more peaceful mindset.

4. Be Mindful

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that helps you stay in the present moment. When you focus on your mind and body, it can assist in the grounding process and help refocus your thinking and be aware of your current feelings and thought processes. Being conscious of your feelings can help you find better ways to cope.

5. Ask for help

There are many campuses across the U.S. that offer mental health services to students. Go to your crisis center, or research online what services your campus offers for students in need.

Using these coping skills and resources can help reduce any suicidal thoughts you might be feeling. In addition to coping skills, you could include different sources of support to use whenever you are experiencing these thoughts. Some supportive sources could be family or friends that make you feel safe and or comfortable to express your thoughts or feelings. Additionally, many campuses are equipped with resources to help students with their mental health. Whether its talking to a professional, or attending support groups, there are many opportunities that can help with whatever you are going through. Developing safety plans are helpful tools to use in case you don’t have any nearby support, and can assist you in creating healthy responses while allowing you to take control on how you cope with stressful situations. Even if you are feeling hopeless right now, remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel. So keep walking, and please reach out for help.

National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

Call 988


American College Health Association, 2020. American college health association-national college health assessment iii: reference group executive summary fall 2020.

DeVylder, J., Zhou, S., & Oh, H. (2021, July 16). Suicide attempts among college students hospitalized for covid-19. Journal of Affective Disorders. Retrieved September 5, 2023, from

Illinois Department of Public Health, G. (2016). Preventing suicide: Suicide and College Students. Illinois Department of Public Health. Retrieved September 5, 2023, from

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