The Blues Project participates in World Suicide Prevention Day

CSUN’s on-campus program The Blues Project set up its booth Thursday on Bayramian Lawn to help promote World Suicide Prevention Day, during which students and volunteers handed out ribbons and brochures full of tips and resources for students.

Vaheh Hartoonian, senior and volunteer for The Blues Project, an educational program that operates out of University Counseling Services (UCS), said the project’s main goal is to raise awareness of depression and try to get more people aware of the tragedy of suicide.

“We have done 118 presentations in the classrooms,” said Hartoonian, English and communications major. “We do them all throughout the semester, whenever we can. What we like to do is go to classrooms on campus, organizations on campus and off campus, and we give presentations about depression and suicide where we talk about warning signs, causes, types of depression, and where to find help.”

The presentations are a general outline that includes a 20 to 25 minute video created by a group of college students.

“It’s a very intense video,” Hartoonian said. “It documents the lives of the survivors of suicide—people whose sisters and best friends have committed suicide—and also talks about where they saw the warning signs.”

Senior Angie Reyes, a member of The Blues Project who set up and coordinated the event, said she got the idea when the group had not yet decided on what to do for the upcoming World Prevention Day on Sept. 10.

“I did some research online and many organizations were promoting for the whole National Suicide Prevention Week, and I thought that would be a good idea being that many students don’t go to classes on Friday,” said Reyes, a psychology major.

Reyes said she planned the booth so students would see the table and be interested in taking a brochure. Her fellow volunteers thought of making ribbons to pass out so students could wear them in class and spread awareness.

“In the past I’ve had a friend pass away due to suicide and it touched me greatly because I wasn’t aware of the warning signs and didn’t really know much about it,” Reyes said.

When Reyes found out CSUN had its own program on campus, she applied and set up an interview with Hartoonian and Dr. Marshall Bloom of UCS.

Lisa Squier, senior psychology major, said she stopped at the booth between classes because she has had family members in the past commit suicide.

Squier said it is a good idea to have programs like The Blues Project on campus and has been in a classroom that sponsored a presentation.

Stacy Merlos, who graduated in the Fall of 2009, still returns to CSUN on Fridays as a volunteer to help Hartoonian with anything he needs for the project.

One of Merlos’ friends committed suicide the same semester Merlos saw one of the presentations in her class, compelling her to join the program. This is her fourth semester working with The Blues Project.

“There have been times after presentations that people come up to me afterwards and say ‘Thank you,’ and that they now know what to do or where to send them if they need help,” Merlos said.

Merlos added the project’s volunteers are trained on the warning signs of depression and suicide.

“In the manual we receive, it tells us what to do, what not to do, a list of resources on and off campus and everything we need to know to help the students,” Merlos said.

Hartoonian said UCS offers eight free sessions to all CSUN students as part of their tuition, and that after the eight free sessions, UCS would refer the student to a low-cost private physician in whatever area the student needs.

“We try to do our best to keep our resources up to date and give people the resources to get the help they need,” Hartoonian said.