Depression has become a college-aged epidemic.
In response, UC Davis offers every student an internationally renowned and free system of psychological services.
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers a variety of mental health aid to every UC Davis student. Representatives of CAPS Central, The House and the Community Advisers Network (CAN) program have spoken about students’ aversion to psychological help and have shared their thoughts about when it is time for you to get help and what options you have.
“I think that it’s kind of human nature to take care of things ourselves,” said Diana Davis, Ph.D. psychologist and clinical director at CAPS. “But when things start to interfere with your life, when you’re not sleeping well, you’ve lost your appetite and you’ve lost interest in things, I think that’s the kind of sign.”
Most instances of depression on campus are situational, meaning that they’re triggered by a stressor, the number one culprit being academics.
“With the 10-week quarter system, it can be very stressful,” said Marilyn Chung, third-year psychology major and the student outreach coordinator at The House.
Other stressors are common too, particularly concerning roommate problems or anxiety over a new environment when people move to Davis for the first time.
“Depression and anxiety are just two sides of one coin,” said Romana Norton, Ph.D CAPS community counselor. “It might start as anxiety around academics, but if you’re anxious enough, you know, your body can’t stay in that state for too long before it has to crash, and the crash is depression.”
Concerning depressed students’ options, Norton championed therapy over medication.
“Things you learn in therapy — those effects last longer than medication alone,” Norton said. “You can go off the medication and then you’ve not learned anything about how to cope [or] how to challenge your own negative self-talk. That’s what therapy is all about, learning how to identify your triggers before you get triggered, because let’s be honest — in life, you’re going to be thrown some curve balls.”
It is often difficult to discern when CAPS services are necessary, as everyone experiences depression differently. A common sign is when people begin to lose interest in hobbies. Davis encourages peers to help in spotting early symptoms.
“If you’re concerned about a friend, just express it,” Davis said. “Just say, ‘Hey, you don’t seem to be feeling as well, how you doing?’”
Norton noted that students have already paid for CAPS services in registration fees.
“Some people don’t feel entitled to it, or they might need that extra motivation. And that extra motivation is that you’ve already paid,” Norton said.
With so many CAPS programs, some students may not know where to even go. According to Davis, students can come and meet with CAPS staff members who will help in that decision-making process.
“A lot of folks know about North Hall, and I think a lot of students are very intimidated by it — like, oh, North Hall! Therapy!” Norton said. “They might have some internalized stigma about mental health that might be culture-related, and they might think, ‘Well, this is not a serious issue, so I don’t feel like I really need to go to CAPS.’”
In a case like this, there are many options other than counseling in North Hall. The House is a one-on-one confidential drop-in or phone-in peer counseling resource. Interns are trained and supervised.
“I think peer counseling is a lot less of a formal setting, as we’re students as well,” Chung said. “We’re like a stepping stone to CAPS.”
The House has a lot of interesting resources as well. In its Mind, Body & Wellness Gym, there are state-of-the-art massage chairs and a biofeedback machine where Chung said people can just go to relax.
“[The machines] will teach you to breathe in for 10 [seconds] and breathe out, and you can watch a butterfly that’s fluttering at the rate your heart is fluttering,” Norton said. “The visuals and sounds help you slow [your heart rate] down and help teach yourself how to do that.”
Another option is visiting the Stress and Wellness Clinic in the Student Health and Wellness Center. The clinic runs like a CAPS satellite office, but provides different services. There is also a Behavior Health Clinic, where students can go to go to get help with stress-related health issues, as well as an Eating Disorders Clinic.
For those who don’t want to go to any of the above mentioned services, there is also the CAN Program. With six counselors, the CAN program is ideal for those who have non-serious concerns or who have had depression in the past and fear that it might return.
“You can email me and say, ‘Hey, I have a few concerns, nothing big.’ We can just chat and you can get some advice from it,” Norton said. “You don’t even have to give us your name.”
From CAPS Central with its one-on-one professional counseling to these support groups, and with seemingly every other option in between, CAPS is internationally known as one of the more cutting edge, multi-culturally focused counseling services.
“We’ve got it pretty much covered here,” Norton said.
For more information, visit the CAPS website at shcs.ucdavis.edu/services/caps.html.
NAOMI NISHIHARA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.