Help Yourself or Help a Friend
The following page is designed to provide a centralized list of resources available on and off campus, strategies for helping yourself, and recommendations for how to help a friend struggling with mental illness. Use the bar at the left to select a category of interest.
Note: Information derived from Mayo Clinic, CAPS, and personal experience
By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255), you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.
- Eat healthy and regular meals.
- Establish a regular sleep schedule, ensuring that you always get enough!
- Challenge negative thoughts with positive ones. Not sure how? Check out this page.
- Explore new hobbies. Try something new. Join a new student group that interests you. Check them out here.
- Meditate and practice calming breathing techniques. Check out this page to get started.
- Get out of the Penn bubble. Check out this guide for free events in Philly, including film screenings, theater, museums, festivals, tours, and more.
- Seek out professional talk therapy. Contact CAPS now.
- Let go of things that worry you.
- Limit time with people whose company drains you.
- Remember, you are not psychic (You don't know what others are actually thinking).
- Spend time with people who love you. Reach out to them for support.
- Volunteer to help others. Check out the community service initiatives on campus.
If your friend seems a little bit off, it’s helpful to try to identify whether they’re experiencing stress, distress, or crisis. Stress is a normal feeling we all have at Penn, but once someone starts feeling distressed, it’s important to intervene before things get worse. If your friend is in crisis, his or her life might be in danger, and your priority should be their immediate safety.
- Bad mood (irritability, impatience, sadness)
- Lacking energy
- Difficulty sleeping
- Inability to relax
- Lack of enjoyment
- Physical complaints (tension, nausea, headaches)
- Sudden changes in behavior patterns
- Deterioration of work
- Multiple absences
- Expressions of intense emotion
- References to suicide
- Deterioration in hygiene and/or appearance
- Significant weight change
- Self-disclosure of distress
- Upsetting events (family problems, end of a relationship, etc.)
- Concern expressed by others
- Your gut tells you something is wrong
- Suicidal statements or attempts
- Homicidal threats or attempts
- Extreme emotions (panic attacks, uncontrolled rage)
- Inability to communicate
- Loss of contact with reality (delusions, etc.)
- Experiencing trauma
- Previous suicide attempts
- History of mental disorders, especially depression
- History of alcohol and substance abuse
- Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
- Easy access to lethal methods
- Call 911 or Penn Police (215-573-3333)
- Call CAPS to consult with a clinician
- Ask the person if they’re thinking about hurting or killing themselves or someone else
- Communicate your concern and your desire to keep them safe
- Develop a plan
- Focus on reducing immediate danger
- Connect them to a higher level of care
- Send a clear message that THEY ARE NOT ALONE.
- Leave the other person alone (unless you don’t feel safe)
- Attempt to resolve longstanding issues
- Make promises of confidentiality
- Debate or challenge the their choices
- Minimize their problems
- Assume you know them
Inquire: Ask questions to get them talking and to learn more about the situation
Connect: Show the person that you are focusing on them (and only them)
Acknowledge: Paraphrase what the speaker said so they know you’re paying attention
Respond: Let them know you care about them!
Explore: Consider possible solutions and resources with them.
Interested in learning more about mental health disorders (including anxiety, depression, psychosis, and personality disorders), as well as tips for coping when related symptoms begin to interfere with daily life? Check out our information page by clicking the icon above.