One way of challenging suicidal thoughts is to cultivate hope. The hope box is a collection of various items that can remind someone that life is meaningful and worth living. Discuss collaboratively with your client how they can get a box (or a bag, a large envelope or anything else that can hold objects) and fill it with reminders of the things that give them hope, or that have given them hope in the past. They may even want to decorate their hope box creatively. Items in a hope box may include:

  • • cards, notes or emails with special meaning.
  • • photos of special times and places in the past or desired destinations for the future, a vacation spot or an activity previously enjoyed.
  • • photos of loved ones.
  • • spiritual verses, prayers or objects.
  • • recordings of relaxing or uplifting music.
  • • letters or recordings from loved ones offering positive, caring messages.
  • • inspiring articles, affirmations, quotes or poems.
  • • jokes or stories that are uplifting or funny.
  • • lists of goals, dreams and aspirations.
  • • coping cards with skills or activities used to cope with stressful situations.
  • • anything else that reminds the person of RFL.
  • • their RFL list.

Other possibilities for their hope box:

  • • write a letter to themselves to remind them of RFL and ways they have coped with difficult times in the past.
  • • a statement of hope and recovery from suicidal thinking; see http//
  • • put a copy of their safety plan in the Hope Box; the safety plan lists things they can do to help, people they can call to talk to (with phone numbers) and services they can contact for help.

Discuss how they can keep the hope box nearby and use its contents whenever they feel distressed, depressed or suicidal. It may be necessary for some to practise using the hope box independently of whether they are distressed or not. This can help challenge negative thoughts and beliefs. By looking at the items in the hope box, they can learn to directly challenge distressing and negative thoughts by being reminded of previous successes, positive experiences and RFL.

Hope is like a muscle that works with practice, so we need to persevere before we can use it effectively. Clinicians need to: [1]

  • [1] elicit willingness you may need to “fake it till you make it”. • support persistence. • expect cynicism; “what’s the point?” thoughts to arise. • understand and use the principles of stimulus control and shaping(operant conditioning; see above).
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