WESTFIELD – CONTACT We Care, a crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline, will begin its next round of training for volunteer listeners starting Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Westfield at 170 Elm Street. The 12-week course begins with a three-hour orientation that is followed by three-hour evening classes once per week for 12 weeks. The only expense is $50 to cover the cost of training materials.
CONTACT We Care also is offering a two-day suicide intervention training course February 25-26 for a wide variety of caregivers that is designed to help them recognize the risk of suicide and learn how to intervene. The training will take place 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, at the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey office at 201 East Grove Street in Westfield. The cost for this training is $299 per person.
“Our volunteer listener training is a chance for people from throughout the community to make a very real difference at a time when mental illness impacts one in every five Americans, depression is increasing among children and college students and studies show that suicides increase during economically hard times,” said Sue Fasano, training director at the nonprofit.
“Our suicide intervention training increases caregivers’ knowledge and confidence to respond to a person at risk of suicide. Those who take this course include educators and counselors, health care professionals, first responders, human resources professionals and community volunteers, among others.”
The numbers that surround mental illness and suicide are staggering, according to research cited by Fasano, including:
- One in five adults in the U.S. experienced a mental illness in 2010
- Slightly less than half the people with any mental illness get treatment each year and two-thirds of all young people with mental health problems are not getting the help they need
- Nearly 37,000 people committed suicide in 2009, the highest rate in 15 years
- Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., third leading cause of death of youth aged 15-24 and the second leading cause of death among college students
- More than 90 percent of people who die from suicide have one or more psychiatric disorders at the time of their death
Crisis and suicide intervention hotlines have a positive impact on these numbers, according to Fasano. Research such as “An Evaluation of Crisis Hotline Outcomes” and studies cited by Psychology Today show a decrease in feelings of emotional distress and suicide both during and following calls to crisis hotlines, she said.
At CONTACT We Care more than 100 trained volunteers answer approximately 30 calls a day, or more than 11,000 calls per year, according to Fasano. Volunteers attend 50 hours of training in active listening skills and how to handle the broad range of calls received on the hotline, as well as advanced trainings in suicide intervention skills.
Volunteer listeners report they find their efforts highly rewarding.
“We try to let them come up with the solution to get them to recognize they may have the solution themselves,” said Michelle Brady, a volunteer listener at the agency since 2008. “They say, ‘Thank you. You’ve helped me.’ (I enjoy) feeling like I was there for someone in their crisis moment.”
Many professional or volunteer caregivers are in a position to play a vital role for someone who finds themselves in one of those trying moments, according to Fasano. The two-day suicide intervention training CONTACT provides enables them to be better prepared at that crucial juncture, she added.
The program employs the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training model – ASIST – the most widely used suicide intervention-training program in the world that has been learned by more than 950,000 caregivers.
ASIST is a two-day, 15-hour intensive, interactive and practice-dominated course. Participants receive a 20-page workbook, two audiovisuals, a 152-page Suicide Intervention Handbook and a full-color, tear-resistant pocket card featuring intervention, risk review and safe plan development principles.
To volunteer as a CONTACT We Care listener and enroll in the upcoming training or to enroll in the two-day ASIST program, call 1-908-301-1899 or visit www.contactwecare.org. Pre-registration is required for both.
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