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Mental Health Outreach and Prevention Skills

Being alive means dealing with stress. Knowing when and how to get help with stress is a practiced and learned skill. Most of us have been in a situation where someone we know or care about is feeling distressed and we were not sure how exactly to react or respond. Sometimes, we may think we are being helpful, such as providing possible solutions, but in actuality, we could be making the person more anxious. Developed by the Counseling And Psychological Services (CAPS) center here at UPenn, here are some core strategies to use when someone you know may be in a moment of extreme distress:

ICARE Core Skills

Inquirer: “Tell me more. Are you okay?” This opens up the conversation with a caring stance and helps you to realize that you shouldn’t assume to know the person and how they are truly feeling.

Connect: Remove distractions, look for non-verbal cues. By making eye contact, you send the message that the person has your full attention and they are worthy of your time and support.

Acknowledge: “What I hear you saying is…” repeat back what the person is communicating to you so that you can explicitly state what they are saying and what they are wanting. This helps validate their feelings and position. Sometimes, people don’t want advice but we are so eager to give it unsolicited. Sometimes, people just need and want to be heard.

Respond: “I feel concerned about you. I would like to work with you to be okay.” This is the part where you can make aware that you care and would like to be part of supporting the person.

Explore: “Have you considered talking to someone like a therapist? How can I help you get the help you need?” In the end, unless we are trained and licensed psychologists and therapists, we cannot and should not diagnose anyone with anything, but rather, focus on how to reach out to other support systems, resources, and experts. The key is to remind your friend or person you care about that they are not alone and there are others who can and will help!



Staff Writer: Victoria Gill


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