Center for Personal and Professional Development

If You are Concerned About a Friend

If you are concerned about a friend’s mental health, know that it is normal to feel confused, frustrated, or scared about dealing with the situation. Because these feelings can become overwhelming, it may be helpful to seek support from campus resources to address your own feelings and needs. If you feel that your boundaries are being crossed, or that you are putting your own wellbeing at risk, it may be helpful to consult with a CPPD staff member.

At times we may become concerned for a classmate or friend’s mental health. Navigating this situation can be frustrating, confusing, and even scary. You may find it helpful to get support for your own needs and feelings as well as to get some direction in keeping your boundaries and wellbeing intact! Below are some questions that you may have about supporting yourself or a friend though a tough time.
 
FAQs
What is a mental health crisis?
The definition of ‘crisis’ is often variable and subjective; it is dependent on the uniqueness of each individual and multiple factors including coping skills, life experience, cultural background, etc. However, we may generally define an emotional crisis as when the intensity of an internal stress response overwhelms the capacity of an individual’s coping skills in that moment. It is especially important to respond to these critical moments when the individual experiences:
  • major disruption in ability to function (activities of daily living)
  • suicidal/homicidal thoughts or impulses;  
  • assault -sexual or physical;  
  • hearing voices/misperceiving reality;  
  • an overwhelming loss or tragedy 

What do I do if a friend is having a '”break down” or “panic attack"?
Know that panic attacks are not dangerous.  Panic is not life threatening and cannot lead to heart attack or “going crazy”. They are often fairly short-lived as well; most episodes take the affected individual 10-20 minutes to calm and recover from.

Some tips for supporting a someone who is experiencing panic:
  • Stay with them if possible, and stay calm.
  • Do not advise or tell them how to feel; rather, ask for what they need and reassure that you are present and willing to support them.
  • If possible, help your friend get to a quiet place.
  • Speak to your friend in brief, calming statements. "you can get through this, I am going to help you stay safe". "let's focus on taking one breath at a time".
  • Help the person slow down breathing by controlling their breath.  For example, hold a deep breath for a few seconds before slowly releasing it and repeating the process numerous times. You can demonstrate this with your own breath- it will help you stay calm too! You may also help the person by providing something for them to focus on; like the sound of your voice describing the objects in the room, or simply counting breaths.
After the student has calmed, offer to contact their supports or suggest on campus resources, like our center, where they can get help with understanding and managing anxiety symptoms.

If a friend is expressing thoughts of suicide, what should I do?
Referring your friend to our services is usually the best course of action in these cases. If you are concerned about the student's immediate safety, please contact Campus Security at 215-780-1401. A person who is expressing suicidal thoughts needs evaluation and support as soon as possible.

This website includes a comprehensive list about how to respond to a person who might express thoughts of suicide.