Welcome to the official blog of UCSC Counseling and Psychological Services!

We are the UCSC community’s resource for counseling, wellness, and mental health concerns. Follow us here to learn more about upcoming events, health and wellness topics, our staff, and updates from the counseling center.

The CAPS blog is written and managed by the CAPS Peer Educator Program, with guest posts by staff and students. Our lead blogger for the 2014-2015 academic year is Alina Crom.

Click the about tab to learn more about CAPS, and what we can do for you!

CAPS Student Hero: Erika Garcilazo

Erika Garcilazo - CAPS Peer Educator

Erika Garcilazo – CAPS Peer Educator

Hello Slugs! We hope all of you are enjoying your Spring Quarter! This Friday, we would like to introduce Erika Garcilazo, one of our talented Peer Educators here at CAPS. Thanks for everything you do, Erika!

What’s your favorite part about being a UCSC student?

Being surrounded by so much knowledge, and so many open minded students. Just being present on campus I learn so many new things everyday, and am able to have discussions with people from all points of view, It feels great to be a part of a university with such a unique culture.

Tell us about something you’re passionate about outside of school (e.g., clubs, hobbies, interests, volunteering, activities, etc.)

I love animals, especially ones I can have at home. In my childhood I probably raised almost every type of pet you can think of. I have a weird obsession with aquariums, and actually had a 100 gallon tank before I had to move for school.

If you could share one thing that you’d like your peers to know about CAPS, what would it be?

CAPS is for everyone. It’s easy to think that mental healthcare is only for people with serious problems. But CAPS offers resources from everything from stress to substance abuse. CAPS is here for you and makes an effort to help diverse groups of students.

Erika Garcilazo is a fourth year student affiliated with Merrill College. She is double majoring in Psychology and Economics. 

7 Tips to Enhance Your Well-being – Part 1


By Camara Chea

Peer Educator Camara Chea shares three of her favorite tips for staying de-stressed and discusses the importance of self care. Stay tuned for next week’s update, where Camara shares four more tips to enhance your well-being!


As college students, it seems like we’re bombarded with heaps of information and overloaded with things to do. Maybe you have a job, maybe you’re heavily involved in extracurriculars, maybe you’re trying to do really well in your classes, or maybe even all three…! And on top of that, perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotions. You may very well be feeling emotions like stress, excitement, fear, happiness, gloom, loneliness, hope, and more. However, when you get to that point where everything spills over, both you AND your mental health suffer.

In the shuffle of life, it’s easy to lose sight of yourself and forget to practice self-care. Just as you would tend to a puppy with lots of loving support, constructive criticism, and mindful actions, it’s important to do these things for yourself as well. Our well-being, which is defined as our personal state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy, is one of the most integral aspects of ourselves. Sadly, many of us ignore it in our day-to-day lives.

There are various things that you can do to improve your well-being. In Part 1 of this 2-post series, I will give you some tips on how to treat yourself.

One thing you can do is practice mindfulness. With this strategy, it’s more about trying to be more aware of your environment and experiences. This can positively enhance your self-understanding and let you live in the moment more. Be curious of the world around you. Take some time to reflect on your surroundings, your thoughts, and your emotions. By doing so, you can help reduce stress, better focus, and enhance self-insight. Examples include writing in a journal, blog, or vlog; doing some yoga; or drawing whatever you feel like drawing. Harvard Health provides a lot of really cool information on mindfulness.

Another thing you can do is simply take a break. I know it might be challenging to specifically give yourself downtime when you have so many things to do, but carving out a break can actually be good for you. If you push yourself too hard, you may incur feelings of burnout or inattention.Try doing something to clear your mind every once in a while.  Let yourself laugh, smile, and just feel. On a daily basis, it’s important to give yourself little breaks so that you can recharge and come back stronger than ever! For example, you could study or do homework for an hour (try to avoid distractions if you can!), take a fifteen minute break, and then work for another hour, and so on. Something I really like to do at the end of a busy week is set aside time to watch a movie or a few episodes of a show. Other suggestions include going to a college program, listening to music, taking a walk, reading a book, take a bubble bath, and exploring Santa Cruz, etc.

The third tip that I have for you today is for you to be good to your body. Your mental health is connected to your physical health, and vice versa. Practicing healthy eating habits, getting enough sleep, and being physically active are all ways of being good to your body. Did you know that exercise increases the release of endorphins in our brains, which help us to relax and feel good? Did you also know that most college students don’t get enough sleep? It is true that sleep is often neglected due to the various demands of our daily lives, but, please, treat yourself with enough sleep to perform optimally! Harvard University also has a really neat website that offers a lot of information about sleep and improving one’s sleep. To be good to your body, try to plan your day so that you can finish what you need to do and go to bed on time; eat portions appropriate for your metabolism and activity levels, at regular intervals; and walk to class instead of taking the bus, go for a jog through our beautiful campus, or just do something active that gets your heart racing!

That’s all for now, but come back next week for four more tips on how to improve your well-being! See you then, and for now, TREAT YO’SELF. :-)

Become a Volunteer at CAPS – Here’s why you Should Apply!

If you’ve been following the CAPS Facebook page, you may have heard that CAPS is now accepting applications for volunteer positions with the CAPS Peer Education Program (PEP) and Student Advisory Board (SAB). This is my second year on the PEP team, and I can definitely say that it has been a fun, eye-opening journey. I learned a lot about mental illness, as well as the inner workings of CAPS. Additionally, my work at CAPS has encouraged me to be even more passionate about de-stigmatizing mental illness and serving the community.


CAPS PEP 2014 – 2015

So, what’s the difference between PEP and the SAB? Well, CAPS Peer Educators get to work more directly with the community and usually assist with tabling events, hosting workshops, or writing blog posts (like me!). However, members of the SAB work more behind the scenes. They bring a student voice to CAPS, giving their input on mental health services and outreach to all students, as well as various agency decisions. Members of the SAB even assist with staff searches!

Here are some comments from the student volunteers at CAPS:

  •  “I was able to make important connections with other students and staff, and voice my opinions on important issues.”
  • “It was refreshing to see a group of people who cared about the mental health of UCSC’s students. I enjoyed being in the group’s company and hope to see it grow more active in the future.“
  • “I feel that I have come a long way: I’m a lot more outgoing and organized, I’ve gotten to make connections with so many other students as well as CAPS faculty, and I have even successfully delivered two classroom presentations so far!”
  • “I have had a great time working on my very own project with the help of CAPS staff, and have received extremely valuable mental health first aid training. Experiencing the role of a CAPS peer educator has given me valuable skills that I am confident in using not only in future professional settings but in my own personal life.”

So what are you waiting for? The deadline for applying for these positions is Monday, April 20th. Apply TODAY to become a member of the CAPS Student Advisory Board or the CAPS Peer Education Program (click the hyperlinks to find more details AND access the online applications).

Meet Christine Merriman, MSW, LCSW, Psychiatry Case Manager

Although this year we have been mainly featuring our CAPS Student Heroes, we think it is just as important for students to get to know our incredible team of CAPS staff members. This month, we are featuring Christine Merriman, MSW, LCSW, our psychiatry case manager here at CAPS. She has been working at UCSC for the past 6 months and we are happy to have her here!

Christine Merriman, MSW, LCSW

Christine Merriman, MSW, LCSW

What is your position at CAPS, and how long have you been working at UCSC?

I am the psychiatry case manager at CAPS, housed at the central office, and I’ve been working at UCSC for 6 months. Chances are if you are going to see a psychiatrist on campus, or get referrals to one off campus, you’ll see or speak to me at some point!

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is meeting with students and getting to hear what they are passionate about, what they’re learning and their hopes and dreams for the future.

Tell our readers about one of your favorite spots on campus or in Santa Cruz.

I don’t know too much of the campus yet, but so far one of my favorite spots is OPERS. Besides the amazing view, being near the track reminds me of my college racing days, and when we came to run a cross country meet at UCSC. It was by far my favorite race course of all the ones we ran.

What do you do to take care of yourself and relax?

Self-care is so important! I get outside in the sunshine or the wind, take walks and hikes, read, do yoga, meditate, sing, talk with close friends, cook, play with my son, cuddle with my cat, and I’m starting to train for a sprint triathlon. My first ever.

What is one thing you wish you knew as a college student?

I wish I’d known to not take it all so seriously, and to have fewer “shoulds” around my behavior. It’s so wonderful what can be discovered when one drops the judgments of self and other, and observes with open, genuine curiosity. I think I missed out on some golden opportunities being bound up worrying about having to “be” a certain way. I’ll add as a caveat – knowing to listen more deeply to myself and my true longings, and almost more importantly, to when my boundaries were being tested. I’d say to my younger self, “Develop a strong, confident NO!”

A Letter to the UCSC graduating class of 2015


By Erika Garcilazo

CAPS Peer Educator Erika Garcilazo shares her personal experience as a graduating senior and offers words of wisdom for other Slugs in the same boat.

Graduation cap toss

So it’s that time of the year, at the start of Spring quarter, when the reality really begins to sink in for us Seniors. The last quarter of our long journey here at UCSC. It seems like just yesterday we were asking for directions to Classroom Unit 2. It’s been four eventful years for us Slugs and it’s a beautiful thing to be able to reminisce and really reflect on all the wonderful life lessons we’ve learned here amongst the redwoods.

On the other hand it can be really anxiety inducing having to think about moving on. The fear of failing to succeed out in the job market or as a fully independent adult can be really overwhelming for many students. And for many others simply thinking of leaving behind our nurturing campus and this stage of life can be impactful. But as all stages in life we will get through it and perhaps we might need some help along the way.

It’s important to take care of yourself and always remember it’s okay to reach out for help during this transition. In fact the best way to prepare and set yourself up for success is by utilizing the copious resources on campus. CAPS is always a good resource if you need to talk to someone. You can call (831) 459-2628 to set up an appointment, or you can give CAPS a visit in the office where you can take some time to sit in our amazing massage chair – it’s a great way to manage your stress levels!

If you’re looking for job finding resources the Career Center is the place for you! They hold drop in resume workshops, mock interviews, as well as career counseling. You can also visit to schedule an advising appointment. So don’t hesitate to get into contact with CAPS and the Career Center; even if they’re resources you haven’t used yet in your four years here doesn’t mean you can’t find them helpful in your last quarter. Let’s end strongly by keeping ourselves happy in mind and body.

Mental Illness and the Model Minority Myth

Discussing Mental Health in Asian American Families

By Grace Shefcik

CAPS Peer Educator Grace Shefcik shares her personal experiences with mental illness and her perspective on how to discuss issues related to mental health within the Asian American community.

Model Minority Mental HealthThe first time I spoke to my mom about mental illness, she seemed uncomfortable. I knew it was a topic she was not well versed in, but regardless of how much I tried to familiarize her, the best I could get was her support for me to go to therapy.

Through time, her perception seemed to shift. At first, her ability to succeed and live a happy life despite major difficulties made my problems appear to not hold enough merit to lead to a mental illness. I grew up in a stable home, did not have to flee the country, only had to focus on one language, and overall, I had the opportunity to devote my life to school without major barriers. What was there to be upset about? She routinely expressed this not only to me, but to my therapist and father, who eventually showed her that mental illness does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter where you are from or what you have been through. Pain is subjective. What I experienced is very similar to what other Asian American and 1st/2nd generational families have – the pressure and expectation of being the “Model Minority.”

Members of the model minority are expected to be smart (particularly good at math and science), wealthy, obedient, self-reliant, and most glaringly – immune to mental illness. Not only does one’s family or culture create this picture, but the media also perpetuates these ideas.  These can all be healthy things to strive for, but if the pressure of one’s family or culture becomes too much, especially when one can’t adhere to the expectations, it can take a major toll. Potentially, the negative impact can be large enough that admitting this model is not you or that you need help can be humiliating, often resulting in anger and/or denial from yourself and others. Continue reading