News Tips: Mental Health Services and Research at UC Davis

Matthew Savoca and Holly Hatfield hug
Matt Savoca and Holly Hatfield Rogai, a student affairs officer in Graduate Studies, hug after she announces him for the first time as “Dr. Savoca.” (Joe Proudman/UC Davis photo)

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, the University of California, Davis, offers a wealth of research and services for mental health. For story opportunities, please contact the people in Strategic Communications listed at the bottom of this release.

UC Davis offers mental health services for students

Matt Savoca sought mental health counseling during his graduate studies at UC Davis, and he has encouraged some of his friends to do the same.

“Typically, the largest hurdle is actually walking in the door,” he said.

So UC Davis has been opening more doors, most recently for graduate and professional students. About a year ago, Graduate Studies re-established in its suite an office for a psychologist serving graduate students. As of February, School of Law students could see a psychologist in a private setting in the school’s library.

Three other professional schools offer therapy at their facilities.

Academic demands usually keep graduate and professional students closer to a school or lab, so having a therapist within their sphere can be especially helpful. For those who serve as teaching assistants or supervise undergraduates, seeing a therapist outside of the main Counseling Services facility can also remove potential concerns of being seen by undergraduates in the waiting area.

Psychologist Dorje Jennette started last fall in the newly created position of director of academic satellites for Counseling Services. He supervises most of the therapists in the schools and colleges.

Therapists dedicated to serving graduate and professional students, he said, can develop a greater understanding of the pressures of their school. He added that school staff members get to know the therapist and can personally introduce students to the therapist.

See the full story.

UC Center Sacramento to hold discussions on mental health

In a collaboration between the UC Center Sacramento and The Sacramento Bee, members of the public can join in two discussions next week addressing mental health resources.

Sacramento Bee editorial page editor Dan Morain, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and mental health experts will explore the challenges for families facing mental illness of loved ones in a discussion Wednesday, May 10. UC Davis emergency physician Aimee Moulin, UCLA psychiatrist Kenneth Wells and Steinberg will speak on a panel and address resources. Morain will moderate and take audience questions.

The event is 6-7:15 p.m. at the Sacramento Bee, 2100 Q St., Sacramento. Tickets, which are $25, can be purchased online from The Sacramento Bee.

On Thursday, May 11, at noon, the UC Center Sacramento will host a panel discussion moderated by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco: “Psychiatric Bed Availability in California: Is It a Problem, and If So, What Do We Do About It?” 

The discussion Thursday will take place at the UC Center Sacramento, 1130 K St., Room LL3. Lunch will be served, and registration is required

More information: Brook Miller-Jacobs, UC Center, bmmillerjacobs@ucdavis.

Video games and depression

Video games and “brain training” applications are increasingly touted as an effective treatment for depression. A new UC Davis study carries it a step further, though, finding that when the video game users were messaged reminders, they played the game more often and in some cases increased the time spent playing.

The paper, co-authored by graduate student Subuhi Khan and Jorge Pena, professor in the Department of Communication at UC Davis, is forthcoming in Computers in Human Behavior.

The messages, and subsequent games assigned, targeted either depression that could be perceived as internal — caused by a chemical imbalance or hereditary factor — or depression that could come from outside factors, such as a job or relationship situation. The messaging had slight differences in approach, but ended on basic inspirational notes to encourage the participant to play the game. Each message ended with: “Just like a regular workout, much of the benefit of these tasks comes from using them without taking breaks and putting in your best effort.”

The specially designed games made people feel they control their depression.

See the full story.

Changes in legal status affect psychological well-being of immigrant young adults

UC Davis researchers have found, for the first time, that transitioning out of undocumented status to legal status results in positive emotional consequences and improvements to overall psychological well-being. The results, published in a paper in the journal Social Science and Medicine, analyze the health impacts of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, comparing DACA program participants to undocumented young people who did not have DACA status.

In the study, researchers compiled information from about 500 respondents who self-reported their feelings of stress, anxiety, fear of deportation, and other issues. Contact: Caitlin Patler, assistant professor, sociology,

The Petitation Companion book reading in Sacramento Saturday

UC Davis researcher Elisabeth Paige will present her book on how to use a different form of meditation, or "petitation," at a reading Saturday, May 6, 3-5 p.m., at the Avid Reader bookstore in Sacramento.

Paige, who has suffered from bipolar disorder for many years, has found petitation — using her dog to help her meditate — is a viable treatment for her illness. She will read from her book, The Petitation Companion ($19.99), which is narrated by her service dog, Pago.

See the full story.

Human-animal interconnections to be addressed at UC Davis conference next month

The use and training of and research on service animals for children and adults with illness will be addressed at a conference of the International Society for Anthrozoology taking place at UC Davis June 22-27. Speakers include experts from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the UC Davis Mind Institute, and others.

See a story on service dogs and their use. 

Media Resources

Julia Ann Easley, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-752-8248,

Karen Nikos-Rose, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-219-5472,

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