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College Mental Health

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Directed by Nancy Downs, MD, the College Mental Health program is partnered with UC San Diego’s on-campus services, including Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and Student Health Services (SHS). Together, they help address the unique mental health and psychiatric needs of more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

Our multidisciplinary team consists of psychiatrists and psychologists skilled in caring for college students with complex mental health needs (e.g., combined mental health and medical issues). Together, we deliver integrative and culturally sensitive mental health services to UC San Diego students, as well as students at other colleges throughout San Diego County.

Mental health issues we treat and help manage include:

  • Anxiety disorders (e.g., phobias, social anxiety disorder)
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse (e.g., alcohol, marijuana)
  • Eating disorders (i.e., anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa)
  • Cyclic mood disorders (e.g., bipolar disorder)

Addressing Mental Illness Early

The mental health of college students is a growing concern.

Late adolescence and young adult years are a critical time to identify mental illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three-quarters of all mental illness cases manifest by the age of 25, and one in four people between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness. The biological and social stresses of this developmental stage, such as extreme sleep deprivation and substance abuse, contribute to this risk.

Early intervention may help improve success rate and lessen long-term disabilities associated with brain disorders.

Nearly 30 percent of college students have felt so depressed in the past year that it was difficult to function, and more than 50 percent have felt overwhelming anxiety, making it hard to succeed academically.
--American College Health Association

Comprehensive Evaluation

Prior to receiving treatment, each student is given a comprehensive, biopsychosocial evaluation.

This evaluation is performed by a psychiatrist or psychologist and helps determine the type of medical and/or mental issue, and severity of illness. Based on these results, a treatment plan is developed and tailored to the student's unique needs.

Our mental health experts use evidence-based practices in their treatment approach, drawing on research and practical experience.

The treatment plan incorporates:

  • Non-pharmacological therapy: This includes psycho-education, diet, exercise, sleep hygiene and cognitive-behavioral strategies to help the student cope.
  • Medical treatment: If deemed medically necessary, medication(s) may be prescribed. In severe cases in which medications do not provide relief, we offer alternative therapies (e.g., transcranial magnetic stimulation).
  • Case management: In coordination with UC San Diego Student Health and Well Being - Counseling and Psychological Services, the treatment team helps assess goals, identifies skills and resources to support recovery goals, and coordinates services to help the student live well. A primary care provider or case manager may also monitor mental health improvement, school progress, and quality of care.

Follow-Up Care

Suicide Risk

Suicide is the second most common cause of death in people between ages 14-25, according to the CDC.

Learn how you can help another student who may be in trouble.

Follow up care is an important component of treatment and can aid in recovery and prevention.

Once our mental health experts have helped the student sufficiently manage his/her illness, the primary care team continues to provide support and monitor progress on campus.

Research and Clinical Trials

By focusing on mental health care for transitional-age youth, the College Mental Health program provides unique opportunities in clinical research to develop more effective therapies.

We also offer specialized training to educate the next generation of mental health care providers.

Appointments & Referrals

Clinic Location

La Jolla

Emergency Help Available 24/7

Crisis and emergency counseling is available for UC San Diego students 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

If you are an established patient of College Mental Health, call 858-534-7792 and ask to speak to our on-call psychiatrist. 

Otherwise, call Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 858-534-3755. 

Is It Time to Get Help?

See if you need to connect to a mental health professional by taking CAPS' free and anonymous online mental health screening.

Meet Our Team

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

CAPS provides free on-campus counseling, consultation services for parents, student mentoring, and peer-run support groups and workshops for enrolled UC San Diego students. Visit CAPS for more information

Insurance: Do You Qualify?

UC San Diego students are automatically enrolled in a student health insurance plan (SHIP), which qualifies them for ongoing specialty psychiatric services. Learn more about SHIP.

Annual Mental Wellness Events

Related Services

Online Resources

Make a Donation

Help support our mission to deliver tailored and effective care to students at UC San Diego by making a donation to the college mental health program.

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