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The Blues Project is one of four peer education programs currently offered by University Counseling Services. Headed by Dr. Marshall Bloom and Graduate Student Assistant Debra Arviso, this program is designed to educate students and the community about suicide and depression.
The programs’ origin dates back to 1990 when CSUN introduced the Suicide/Depression Prevention Project based on a program at the University of Florida. The name change three years ago was part of an effort to make the program more accessible and less frightening.
Students eligible to participate in this project may be undergraduate or graduate students in any major with good academic standing who have an interest in being an integral part of a Cal State Northridge campus community project. They must commit to active participation for a full semester which includes training and weekly seminars. In return for their efforts, students can earn academic credit, receive priority registration, expand their skills and knowledge, gain experience in public speaking, and achieve a sense of accomplishment and reward.
The Blues Project does outreach to campus groups, classes and the community. Debra Arviso explained, "The Peer Educators are trained to give presentations to classes on campus, parent groups and community organizations. They are taught to give personal statements about their own experiences to gain the trust of the audience. The program teaches public speaking skills as well as the ability to work in groups and develop partnerships."
Last Fall the program engaged 26 peer educators, who gave 50 presentations to over 2200 students. "We have a had a great deal of interest and support on campus from the psychology department and other related disciplines but we would really like to expand our programs to reach every sector of the campus,” explained Dr. Bloom, "These issues don’t just affect psychology majors. Surveys indicate that a large percentage of the population has had some contact, direct or indirect, with individuals suffering from depression and suicide."
"A common misconception is that people are hesitant to discuss the subject. People dealing with depression can sometimes feel ambivalent about life and death but our experience shows us that they always seem receptive to discuss these feelings." Dr. Bloom continued, "We really want to educate as many people as possible about the warning signs as well as to remove the belief that suicide is a taboo topic not to be discussed."
The Peer Educators have given presentations to groups of students, faculty and staff and they encourage every department on campus to take advantage of this program. "Feedback has been phenomenal" Debra said "and we know from experience that suicide and depression affects all races, all ages and all socioeconomic groups.”
If you would like to schedule a presentation for your office staff or class room please contact Dr. Marshall Bloom at 677-4795. Students can obtain more information on how to apply as a peer educator by contacting Debra Arviso at 818-677-2610.