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 family, friends, or roommates may have known that something was wrong.
If you notice changes ranging from subtle to dramatic in your family member, friend, or roommate’s 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.
Some concerns to be aware of can include...
- Marked shifts or changes in mood
- Evidence of Suicidal thinking
- Experiencing psychotic behavior including being disconnected from reality
- Engaging in self-injurious behavior, such as cutting themselves
- Escalating substance use behaviors and related consequences
- Changes in patterns of eating including restricting food intake or purging by vomiting or excessive exercise
- Changes in patterns of sleep
- Changes in hygiene and self-care
- Socially withdrawing or isolating
- Experience of trauma including abuse or hate crime
- Experience of recent loss
General Principles and Skills for Showing that you Care
There are times when people feel uncomfortable having a conversation about mental health with family, friends, and loved ones. However, having these conversations can make all the difference in helping a person to realize they are not alone. You can help by having these conversations, showing you care, and taking action. Below are some tips and suggestions on how to start these conversations.
Make an effort to communicate care and concern. Start a conversation with your loved one. Focus on communicating in a caring, non-judgmental way. Talk to the person in private when both of you have the time and aren't rushed or preoccupied. Give the student your undivided attention.
“I am worried about you because…”
Try to gain a greater understanding of how your loved one is feeling and what they are experiencing by asking, assessing, & affirming.
“I’ve noticed change in your recently. Tell me more about what is happening. I want to help. What can I do?
Give hope. Assure your loved one that things can get better. It's important to help them realize that options are available and that things won't always seem this hopeless.
Here are some additional resources for helping you reflect on how to have these conversations:
Reach for Resources and Refer
Here are some resources available for you to engage support for mental health through Penn State York and the York Community.
- The Penn State York Counseling Center: 717-771-4088, Joe and Rosie Ruhl Student Community Center Room 216, Monday-Thursday 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Friday 8:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
- The Penn State Crisis Line: 1-877-229-6400, a 24-hour phone and crisis service for Penn State students
- WellSpan York Hospital Emergency Department: 717-851-2345, emergency room located near campus
- Penn State York University Police: 717-771-8444
- 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 believe 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 the Penn State York Counseling Center at 717-771-4088, Joe and Rosie Ruhl Student Community Center Room 216, Monday-Thursday 8:00 a.m.—5:00 p.m., Friday 8:00 a.m.-2:00 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 WellSpan York Hospital Emergency Department
- Call the Penn State Police at 717-771-8444 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.