Resources & Strategies

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


RAP Line

Peer counselors trained to provide support, information, and referrals to Penn students
Chat and get help anonymously for yourself or a friend
Available 9pm-1am via phone
Coming soon: Text anonymously with RAP Line!


Professional counseling services
Workshops and group therapy sessions
24/7 Help-Line available

Weingarten Learning Resources Center

Experienced learning instructors
Helpful time management and study strategies
Workshops available
On Campus Resources
Dedicated to supporting college students grieving the illness or death of a loved one
Hosts national grief support programs, such as the "We Get It" Supportive Blog
Student-run University chapters exist throughout the country
Career planning
Job search assistance
Counseling and workshops available
Community service programs available
Active both on campus and in the surrounding Philadelphia community
Pastor provides moral, ethical, and spiritual support to students
Community service programs available
Supports religious organizations on campus
Offers FREE RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) courses to prevent crimes related to sexual violence
Provides support and guidance for victims of rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, harassment, and other sensitive incidents
Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Professionals trained by CAPS to refer students to mental health resources on campus
A home away from home for sexual and gender minorities on campus
Professionals trained by CAPS to refer students to mental health resources on campus
Committed to maintaining an environment free from discriminatory harassment
Holds events and workshops relating to diversity and multicultural issues
Safe space for Penn students to openly discuss mental health issues
Provides emotional support
Encourages genuine conversation and sharing
Houses 4 fitness and pilates studios as well as locker & shower facilities
Also includes a 2nd floor weight room, olympic-sized pool and co-ed sauna, basketball courts, climbing wall, & golf simulator
Offers group exercise and instructional courses
Full service health clinic
All students eligible
Major departments include Immunizations, Health and Wellness, Primary Care, Sports Medicine, and Women’s Health
Advising and support groups
Counseling and case management
Crisis education programs

Off Campus Resources

Free crisis counseling
24/7, Confidential
Emotional support for those in crisis
Click here to learn more about Crisis Text Line.
Connect to a peer advocate
One-on-one, real-time, and confidential
Connect via live chat, text, or phone
Click here to learn more about loveisrespect.

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.

Toll-free Helpline available (Monday-Thursday 9:00 am - 9:00 pm; Friday 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.)
One-on-one, real-time, and confidential
Free online screening available for Eating Disorders
Click here to learn more about eating disorders at NEDA's website.
Provides treatment and support to help end self-injurious behavior
Online blog available here.
Free Self Injury Self Assessment available
24/7 Lifeline available
TrevorText - Available on Fridays (4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.)
TrevorChat - Available 7 days a week (3:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.)

Self-Help Strategies

- Exercise daily. Don't like exercising alone? Get a Group Exercise Pass at Pottruck, or check out these free group workouts in Philly.

- 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.

- Always know that you're not alone. Talking with other students experiencing similar problems can help more than you know. Check out the Pennsive blog, or attend a group therapy session at CAPS.

- Volunteer to help others. Check out the community service initiatives on campus.

Help a Friend

Identifying Stress, Distress, and Crisis

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

Crisis Intervention - Do’s and Don’t’s


- 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

When talking to someone in distress, use the “ICARE” method.


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.

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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.

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