Step-by-step safety plans, follow-ups can help prevent repeat suicide attempts

Posted: Sept. 18, 2018
Kate Thayer, Chicago Tribune
After struggling with depression and self-harm through most of her teenage years, Alyse Ruriani attempted suicide at age 17. While her parents and a hospital stay saved her life that day, she said she has survived ever since with therapy and also by using a so-called safety plan — a step-by-step tool she can turn to in crisis.
Ruriani, now a 23-year-old Chicago graduate student studying art therapy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has used her safety plan to identify when she’s headed into a depression and how to keep suicidal thoughts at bay.
As she moves through the steps of the plan, “usually that intense feeling subsides,” Ruriani said. “I’m still depressed … but I’m not in a crisis mode that I’m afraid I might attempt (suicide).”
Research shows this type of safety planning, combined with prompt follow-up from medical professionals, can help save lives, particularly for those who come to the emergency room after suicide attempts or expressing suicidal thoughts. But while many local hospitals have procedures in place to address the needs of suicidal patients who come to the ER, administrators acknowledged that consistent follow-up can be difficult.
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