Project OCEAN: You're not alone

BY: BRANDI JOHNSON

Students gathered quietly in the evening at the fountain by Brotman Hall. Rows of small paper bags with candlelights inside of them had messages about keeping up hope, loving yourself, and not giving up on life. This was the candlelight vigil hosted by Project OCEAN last month.. For the first time this fall 19 college campuses in California held a candlelight vigil at the same time. San Jose State University was the first to put on a vigil last fall for remembering suicide victims. This lead to the idea to involve other California college campuses to do a vigil on the same day and time.

“It’s cool they put this event on,” David HernandezJr. 20, a Kinseiology major said. “It shows people care no one is alone.”

According to Dr. Jennifer T. Young, the estimate for American college students committing suicide is around 11 hundred a year. Some people may think that mental health is not taken seriously enough on college campuses due to some recent suicides of students here on campus.

“I think it is taken seriously and we are working on spreading the word more,” Dr. Young said.

As Dr. Young sees it mental health and mental illness is not a huge problem at CSULBcompared to other campuses.

Dr. Young also said services like these are utilized just as much at other college campuses.

Since Project Ocean started six years ago there seems to be a lot progress involving educating and helping students.

“I like to think so they attend workshops and educate students to help other students,” Dr. Young said.

A lot of students don’t know about Project Ocean at all. The program is important to take notice because it gives good resources such as education, tolerance, and it gives students who care about others the chance to do so.

Issues with mental health and mental illness involving college students seem to be taken lightly. More needs to be done to help students who are struggling with such problems. This is where CSULB's Project OCEAN (On Campus Emergency Assistance Network) comes in to educate as well as bring awareness to students about mental health.

Project OCEAN started in 2008 and is a federally funded resource program which focuses on suicide prevention. It is also currently funded by the voter approved Mental Health Services Act through Prop 63 and is one of several Prevention and Early Intervention Initiatives implemented by the California Mental Health Services Authority. To bring knowledge and awareness Project OCEAN also provides psychoeducation training about mental health and mental illness to students on campus.

There seems to always have been a stigma with talking about mental health and mental illness.

“People are afraid to be seen as crazy,” Jennifer T. Young Psy.D. a CSULB counselor and Coordinator of Project OCEAN said. By bringing awareness and training these methods can reduce the attitudes and stigma.

Some students have dedicated their time in joining the program and its mission to help students and train others. Being a Project Ocean Peer Advocate is open to all students who are interested in volunteering. The role of a Project Ocean Peer Advocate includes leading workshops, putting on events, helping out during events, and doing promotion about upcoming activities for the Daily 49er as well as the university’s radio station.

Francisco Granados, a psychology and human development major has volunteered at Project OCEAN for two years. His plans after college is to get his M.A. in counseling, work as a youth counselor and hopes to open a non profit organization.

“That’s my passion--providing hope to students,”Granados said. “It’s an excellent program that helps students [who are] dealing with mental illness or any other problems.”

By having workshops throughout the semester students can learn to help other students who are having problems and have knowledge to recognize symptoms.

Granados suggests that if students know a fellow classmate is having problems they should try giving advice or guiding them to Counseling And Psychological Services (CAPS) and Project OCEAN.

“This program means a lot to me; it’s a blessing to me and other students,” Granados said.

Project Ocean will be hosting upcoming events and workshops in November.

For more information on Project Ocean go towww.csulb.edu/ocean andwww.facebook.com/csulbprojectocean