Illustration by Christine Hipp

Though Valentine’s Day may not be Counseling and Psychological Services’ (CAPS) busiest day of the year, relationships are one of the top five reasons students seek counseling services on campus.

Love and relationships are a major concern students seek support for this time of the year. Those who request counseling must first fill out a form to identify their top three reasons for seeking help from CAPS. While depression and sadness are the most common of the top five reasons, concerns about intimate relationships are the fifth top concern, up from sixth last school year.

Gary Dunn, CAPS director at Cowell Health Center, gave recommendations for coping with depression — on Valentine’s Day or otherwise.

“Get involved in activities, clubs, teams, campus groups,” Dunn said. “Do things with a group of people. Those [experiences] can become friendships, social relationships.”

CAPS offers solutions for those who need help or need that extra push to get comfortable and learn the skills to help them socialize. Several therapy groups, including a women’s therapy group and a stress group, exist to help people cope with their problems.

“From these, [people] can increase their social opportunities,” Dunn said.

CAPS offers many other services as well, including couples’ counseling, available even if your partner is not a UC Santa Cruz student.

Dunn said time and emotional honesty are both important for those who may be feeling poorly on Valentine’s Day due to a recently ended relationship.

“Give yourself some time to grieve over it,” he said. “It is a loss, and it takes some time to work it through.”

CAPS encourages those students distraught about their relationships to avoid making brash choices.

“We don’t tend to make our best decisions when we are emotionally distraught,” Dunn said. “Also, avoid medicating your feelings with drugs and alcohol. Never be afraid to reach out for help.”

CAPS also helps those questioning or coming to terms with their sexuality. They often give help to students wrestling with coming out to their peers, family and friends.

In addition, the Student Health and Outreach Promotion center (SHOP) offers services, including free HIV testing.

“Our peer test counselors are all students; they do test and risk assessment counseling immediately afterwards,” said the director of SHOP, Meg Kobe.

SHOP has 3 main branches of services that they offer to students.

“I like to think of our office as a place where you’re not afraid to ask a question, [where] no one will laugh or make fun,” said Kobe. “If we can’t help you using our resources, we will help you find and get the resources you need.”

For those considering seeking counseling services, Dunn said he and his colleagues are happy to listen and offer guidance.

“I sought out this job because I was interested in college counseling,” Dunn said. “This is a terrific opportunity [for me] to impact people in a meaningful way.”