Project Resolving Issues through Support and Education (Project R.I.S.E.)
Project Resolving Issues through Support and Education (Project R.I.S.E.), a peer support program of the University of Virginia (UVA), was developed in 2006 by UVA students with the purpose of offering African-American students a nonjudgmental environment where they could receive support and education in dealing with mental illnesses and other issues.
College students face many pressures on a daily basis that can be both exciting and overwhelming. Oftentimes, young people find support from their peers. The founders of Project R.I.S.E. found this to be true-they were approached several times to help support their friends in college.
A needs assessment survey was conducted through the UVA Office of African-American Affairs. It demonstrated that 57 percent of the surveyed African-American students at UVA had thought about dropping out of college due to a variety of mental health issues. Results also noted that 82 percent of surveyed students turned to other African-American students for support. Of the students who responded to the survey, more than 70 percent felt that developing a peer support program within the UVA community would be a good idea.
After evaluating the results of the needs assessment survey, the project was formally begun in December 2006. The project is a contracted independent organization of UVA; it is a student-run program and receives support from various offices within the UVA community.
Project staff members are divided into three committees: peer counselors, peer educators, and resource coordinators. These staff members provide direct services to students, completing outreach events and activities for the project and compiling resources. Staff members also work to create relationships with other UVA offices. All Project R.I.S.E. staff members have been trained in peer counseling techniques and skills.
Project R.I.S.E. works to provide emotional support for students during their years at UVA, educate them about depression and anxiety, reduce the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, and provide an environment where students can express themselves without fear.
Project support has increased since its development in 2006. Several students have used project services and expressed their gratitude in finding the services available to them.
Project staff members have continued to develop the program and hope to expand services to other communities of color and to connect with similar peer counseling programs in other universities.
Project founders and staff members also made a presentation at the offices of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
For further information about Project R.I.S.E., visit the UVA website at http://campaign.virginia.edu/site/?c=pvI1IcNYJyE&b=3571005.