Sometimes, school and personal life become just too much to bear.
For California State University, Stanislaus students, a new program offers help.
The PEER – Prevention, Education, Empowerment, Relief – Project is based on the simple idea that “friends are good medicine.”
PEER mentors are CSU Stanislaus students who understand and empathize with the difficulties of balancing the responsibilities and pressures that most college students face. Mentors are trained to help students who are in crisis or may simply need someone to talk to.
“There are so many people who are hurting and lost on college campuses,” said Tamra Partin, a master of social work student and a PEER Project mentor. “Many students are away from home for the first time and making the transition to adulthood. Others are working or taking care of families. The added stress of school can bring the healthiest people down.”
Jennifer Johnson, the PEER program coordinator, believes there is a severe need for the services that the PEER Project offers – increasing mental health awareness, reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues, and suicide prevention. Following one of the initial classroom presentations on campus, a number of students waited outside with questions regarding the program.
“They were asking about everything from eating disorders, to depression, to how to convince a friend to seek help,” said Johnson.
Project Director Dan Berkow, who, with university staffer Nancy Lewis wrote the grant proposal, said that the PEER Project is already well underway. Project coordinators are currently working on presentations to ensure that as many students as possible are aware of the available support services.
Although the program is still in its early stages, Partin believes that the program has already made a difference.
“I think we have helped many students through the training we have had on campus,” she said.
One example is Mental Health First Aid, a program that teaches how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Attendees learned a five-step action plan to assess the situation, select and implement appropriate interventions, and to help the individual in crisis connect with the appropriate professional care.
Classroom presentations will continue throughout the Spring 2013 semester, which began on Jan. 28. The PEER team is also planning a series of events to screen and discuss videos on a variety of subjects including college dating, eating disorders, and more.
The project is funded by a grant from the California Mental Health Services Authority.
To learn more about the PEER Project, visit their office located within the Student Service Building or call (209) 664-6962.