Department of Psychiatry
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Create your own coping card

What is a coping card?

A coping card is a tool developed by experts in Sunnybrook's Department of Psychiatry to help patients create an action plan to cope with periods of emotional distress that includes ways to manage emotions as well as providing an individual’s support contact numbers and crisis resources.

How can a coping card help an individual in crisis?

A coping card can be used in times of increased anxiety or emotional distress to help patients manage using a variety of potential coping strategies. It can also be a helpful reminder that the individual is not alone and that help is available.

The coping card is an intervention that helps patients and their health providers develop a comprehensive action plan. It is especially useful for suicidal crises because people who are suicidal often think there are no other options, and the coping card can help remind them of the many steps that can be taken to address how they’re feeling to help them cope and be resilient when they experience distress.

Sunnybrook’s coping card is also available for download in 10 different languages.

How do I use the coping card?

It is helpful for patients to complete the questions on the coping card with their mental health-care teams when an individual is not in crisis or is experiencing a time of wellness.

Filling in the coping card during this time can help a patient provide detailed answers about their triggers, symptoms, ways to lower distress, a reminder of the meaningful aspects of an individual’s life, as well as the trusted family and friends who they can reach out to and contact for support.

The coping card can be taken anywhere. It is available digitally or can be printed out. Individuals can carry the card with them so that when a difficult and stressful event happens, it can be quickly referred to with the plan, strategies, and supports already in place to help.

It may take practice to remember and get used to referring to the coping card.

What are the benefits of sharing my coping card with trusted supporters?

It can be helpful for the patient, their health-care teams, and caregivers to know about the coping card. The patient must provide consent to share their coping card with others.

Family, friends and supporters who are aware of the coping card details can help support their loved one in crisis by going through the various strategies prepared in the coping card.

In what languages is Sunnybrook’s coping card available?

Why can the coping card be a helpful mental health tool?

Feelings of anxiety, worry or stress can be overwhelming, and in the moment, it can be difficult to know what to do. When people experience emotional crises, they don’t often have an action plan for how to deal with how they are feeling.

The coping card is a simple way to prepare for these times and it can be available on your device or printed out to refer to quickly. It can also be used when a person is feeling alone as a reminder of healthy coping techniques, the people who can support them, as well as emergency resources that are available.

Get started here:

» Download our coping card resource (English, PDF)

This resource is also available in more languages:


Mental health resources for coping during COVID-19 from Sunnybrook experts

If you need help in an emergency, please call 911 or visit your local emergency department.

If you’re feeling like you’re in crisis or need somebody to talk to, please know that help is also available through community resources:

Other crisis resources:

  • Good2Talk (Ontario post-secondary student helpline): 1-866-925-5454
  • 911/ my local emergency department

What skills can I learn to decrease my distress?

Resources from AnxietyBC:

Information on creating a hope kit

The purpose of the hope kit is to centralize tangible objects that can prime positive emotional states and elicit thoughts that counter suicidal thoughts. Hope kits can be created using any form of a container (e.g., shoe box, manila envelope, tackle box) in which objects having positive associations can be stored. Objects commonly placed in hope kits include pictures of vacations, inspirational quotes, scripture passages, trinkets or souvenirs from important events, letters from loved ones, and family photos. Key to the selection of objects to be included in the hope kit is the ability of the object to prime a positive emotional experience, thereby reducing the intensity of aversive emotions sustaining the suicidal state. By eliciting positive emotions, the hope kit intervention provides a direct functional alternative to suicidality for emotional relief. (adapted from Dr. Craig Bryan)

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“Be Safe” App for youth, in addition to your personal coping card

Disclaimer: we have not evaluated this app.

» Download the app from the App Store