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Every year at Penn State, as well as other universities and colleges, there are tragedies that involve students who intentionally injure themselves or others. On occasion, students even die by suicide due to mental health issues that have gone undetected. Most of these students have not sought help and were not referred to counseling services, even though their friends or roommates may have known that something was wrong.

If you notice changes ranging from subtle to dramatic in your friend or roommates thinking, emotional status, and/or behaviors but do not know what to do or how to intervene find out more about how to show you care. 

If you have a friend who is ...

  • Struggling with depression or suicidal thinking
  • Experiencing psychotic behavior, such as being dangerously out of touch with reality
  • Engaging in self-destructive behavior, such as cutting themselves
  • Getting drunk and blacking out
  • Starving themselves or purging by vomiting
  • Being abused by a stranger or partner
  • A victim of a hate crime
Keep Yourself Safe
Remember to keep yourself safe in the process of helping others. If you feel you may be harmed in a situation keep yourself safe and call 911. Don’t intervene directly and become another victim but take action to secure help for the victims in a situation by calling 911.

General Show You Care Principles

You can help by showing that you care and taking action.

Communicate Care & Concern

"I'm worried about you because of..." (fill in behaviors or the situation of concern in a non-judgmental way).

Ask, Assess, and Affirm

"I've noticed changes in you recently. Tell me more about what's happening. I want to help. What can I do?"

Reach for Resources & Refer

  • Counseling and Psychological Services- (CAPS) 814-863-0395, 501 Student Health Center, Monday-Friday 8 am-5pm.
  • The CAN HELP line, 1-800-643-5432, a 24 hour phone and mobile crisis service
  • Mt. Nittany Medical Center Emergency Department, 814-234-6110
  • University Police, 814-863-1111
  • Emergencies, 911

Engage, Explain, and Eliminate Danger

Don't take "No” for an answer from your friend about getting help when the situation is life-threatening. Remember, even if your friend is upset with you at the time, you might be saving a life.

"I feel that it's important to get you some help. I don't want you to hurt yourself. I found out about some services for students. Let's call and make an appointment."

If you feel that your friend is completely out of control and has lost their ability to care for themselves or control their impulses, don't leave them alone. 

  • Call Counseling and Psychological Services at 814-863-0395 (Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
  • Call the 24/7 Penn State Crisis Line at 1-877-229-6400
  • Text the 24/7 Crisis Text Line: Text “LIONS” to 741741
  • Go to the Mount Nittany Medical Center Emergency Department
  • Call the Penn State Police at 814-863-1111 or call 911

Remember to keep yourself safe in the process of helping others. If you feel you may be harmed in a situation keep yourself safe and call 911. Don’t intervene directly and become another victim but take action to secure help for the victims in a situation by calling 911.

How to help a friend who is suicidal

Communicate Care & Concern

Talk about what you see:

  • "I'm worried about you because you seem depressed."
  • "You haven't been to class in a week or two."
  • "It seems like you are avoiding everyone."
  • "You look sad and I know you are crying."

Ask, Assess, & Affirm

  • "Can you tell me how you are doing?"
  • "What's happening lately?"
  • "Has it gotten to the point where you are thinking of ending your life or about suicide?"

Reach for Resources & Refer

If your friend is feeling suicidal, it is important to know where to go for help. Counselors can give you advice and could see your friend for counseling. The following services are available:

  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), 814-863-0395, 501 Student Health Center, Monday-Friday 8 am to 5 pm.
  • The CanHelp Crisis Line, 1-800-643-5432, a 24-hour phone and mobile crisis service.
  • Mt. Nittany Medical Center Emergency Department is a place to have your friend checked out medically in a crisis. Call 911 for an ambulance.

Engage, Explain, & Eliminate Danger

  • "I feel it's important to get you some help. I don't want you to hurt yourself. I found out about some services for students. Let's call and make an appointment."

 

How to help a friend who seems out of control

Violent, potentially dangerous behavior and problems distinguishing reality are genuine and complex problems for some students on all college campuses including Penn State. These concerns can cause damage to the individual and community at large – you are right to want to show you care by helping to get to resources as quickly as possible.

Warning Signs of Potentially Violent Behavior

  • Increase in irritability, agitation or restless behavior
  • Substance abuse
  • Intolerance of differences
  • Marked decline in school/job performance
  • Change in personality, mood, and behavior
  • Feelings of persecution
  • Excessive crying
  • Significant personal distress (academic, family, relationship problems)
  • Decline in personal grooming
  • Crossing interpersonal boundaries
  • Intimidating, belligerent or defiant/challenging behavior
  • Confrontational, easily provoked, angry, unpredictable behavior
  • Blaming others for anything that goes wrong while disavowing any personal responsibility
  • History of violent, reckless or antisocial behavior
  • Threatening statements about self or others (direct or veiled)

Communicate Care & Concern

  • "I've noticed you haven't been yourself lately. You seem really irritable. I'm worried about you. Is something going on?"

Ask, Assess, & Affirm

  • "I heard you say you were so mad you could kill someone, were you serious about that?"

Reach for Resources & Refer

  • "It seems like things are escalating between you and your roommate, I'm worried about someone getting hurt or in trouble. Let's go talk to someone at CAPS before it moves any further."

Engage, Explain, & Eliminate Danger

  • Wow, my roommate has become very angry and aggressive lately. They've crossed the line and I'm worried. I'm going to call CAPS or CanHelp to consult with a professional.

 

How to help a friend who is struggling with an eating disorder

If your friend seems to be struggling with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia, show you care. 

Communicate Care & Concern

  • “I'm worried about your health because you don't seem to be eating and you were dizzy and almost fainted yesterday. I'm worried you might die if you don't get help."
  • “I know you're under a lot of stress lately and I've heard you getting sick (or vomiting) after dinner".
  • “I'm worried about you and want to help."

Ask, Assess, & Affirm

  • "I'm concerned and I'm wondering if you are worried for yourself?"
  • "Could you talk with me about how you're doing?"
  • "Are you noticing any physical signs of problems?"
  • "I'd like to help you get some treatment. Would you be willing to go?

Reach for Resources & Refer

Especially if your friend is experiencing dramatic weight loss or seems to be purging frequently (by vomiting or laxative use) and/or is experiencing physical signs such as heart rate irregularity or fainting, it's important for them to be assessed by a health and mental health professional and receive treatment. Eating disorders are serious conditions that can be life-threatening.

The staff at CAPS includes eating disorder specialists. They can give you advice and see your friend for a consultation to determine the best evaluation and treatment plan. Services are coordinated through a Healthy Eating and Living Support program (HEALS) in the Student Health Center that offers a multidisciplinary team approach to the treatment of eating disorders.

  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS); Call 814-863-0395.
  • University Health Services (UHS) for Eating Disorder Medical and Nutrition Appointments- Contact Case Manager Natahsha Gates at 814-863-9548.

Engage, Explain and Eliminate Danger

  • "I've learned about a program in the Student Health Center. There's an Eating Disorder Team composed of UHS physicians, registered dieticians and CAPS therapists and psychiatric providers. Penn State Healthy Eating And Living Support (HEALS) works to provide holistic services and coordinate medical, nutrition and counseling interventions. Let's contact someone about setting up an appointment for you".

For more information about eating disorders and body image, visit the National Eating Disorder Association and a project from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health on healthy body image.

How to take action to stop violence and hate crimes

Intolerance, discrimination, and hate crimes are present in all communities and college campuses. Working to support and affirm differences is one way to change the environment in a healthy way in order for all of us to feel included as part of the Penn State community.

In addition to showing appreciation for each student's uniqueness, there are also times when quick and decisive action is needed in order to stop violence and protect students from danger. Hate crimes and violence in State College are more likely to occur at night and may involve perpetrators who are under the influence of alcohol or taking advantage of others who are.

In an emergency, when seconds count, Call 911 or 814-863-1111 for University Police.

If you've been the recipient of discrimination or a hate crime and do not know what to do, consider seeking assistance from one of the following campus support services:

  • The Zero Tolerance for Hate Penn State Support Network through the Multicultural Resource Center, 220 Grange Building, 814-865-1773
  • The LGBTA Student Resource Center, 101 Boucke Building, 814-863-1248
  • Gender Equity Center, 135 Boucke Building, 814-863-2027
  • Counseling and Psychological Services, 501 Student Health Center, 814-863-0395
  • Or use the Report Hate Form or call 814-863-2020.

If you are with a friend here is an example of how you could Show You Care if you witness a hate crime:

Communicate Care & Concern for Victims

  • "Look over there. That group is beating up on those two students and saying horrible things...*." (*Fill in homophobic, racist, sexist or the situation that applies).

Ask, Assess and Affirm Rights to Fair Treatment

  • "We can't just walk by without helping them. What should we do?”

Reach for Resources & Refer

  • "Let's call 911 and get the police here."

Engage, Explain and Eliminate Danger

  • "Hi 911! Please come now. We need help. Some students are being beaten up in the alley.”

 

How to help yourself manage stress

Self Care is an important part of academic and social success at Penn State. Part of Showing You Care is to care about yourself. 

Some tips

  • Go to classes and study.
  • Set realistic goals each day.
  • Engage in regular eating and sleeping.
  • Avoid risky behaviors like binge drinking or using drugs.
  • Exercise in moderation.
  • Develop a support network and make friends.
  • Practice kindness for yourself and others.
  • Do something you enjoy every day.
  • Pause and practice mindfulness and stress management techniques
  • Breathe deeply and diaphragmatically, meditate or pray.
  • Act according to your values.
  • Enjoy nature and practice sustainability. (The planet needs our help).

Remember, we can’t care for others if we don’t care for ourselves.

If you are struggling at Penn State, you can get help with anxiety, depression, stress management or other emotional issues at Counseling and Psychological Services, 814-863-0395. On nights and weekends you can contact the Centre County CAN HELP line at 1-800-643-5432.

Learn how stress impacts your health and life, as well as some self-help strategies for managing it through the PSU Student Affairs EDGE online workshops (requires a PSU log-in). Check out other stress management resources available, including a guided program called Stress Recess. There are also a number of relaxation, visualization, and mindfulness resources at the Mind Body Spa. You can also download mindfulness meditations here.