Suicide Prevention Hotline Now Offers Texting As Option To Teens In Distress

WESTFIELD – CONTACT We Care, a crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline, is now able to help teenagers in distress work through their crises via texting, the nonprofit announced today. With more than 60 percent of teenagers preferring texting to other forms of communication this new service enables trained “listeners” to communicate with troubled teens in the way many are most comfortable with, according to Joanne Oppelt, executive director of the agency.

Teenagers can reach a CONTACT We Care volunteer by texting “CWC” to 839863, Monday, Wednesday or Friday 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Volunteers are trained to empathize, interact and offer thoughtful direction that enables texters to see alternatives to suicide, Oppelt said.

CONTACT We Care is the only crisis intervention and suicide prevention service for Central and Northern New Jersey. More than 100 trained volunteers staff the agency’s hotline and answer more than 11,000 calls and emails per year. CONTACT recently launched a “Save our Youth” campaign designed to raise awareness about teen suicide and increase resources to help teenagers in crisis.

“The tragic suicide of Lennon Baldwin screams of the need to reach out to troubled young people in as many ways as possible to help them find an avenue away from their despair,” Oppelt said. “No one seemed aware of Lennon’s torment, leaving him alone. Our goal is to make sure that when other teenagers and children feel that lonely they know there is someone to talk to, anonymously and confidentially. This new texting capability is one more way to do that.”

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth aged 15-24, the fourth leading cause of death for youth aged 10-14 and the second leading cause of death among college students, Oppelt said.

Each year approximately 5,000 young people aged 10-24 commit suicide, according to national statistics. In addition, the National Institute of Mental Health believes as many as 25 suicides are attempted for each one that is completed. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19.3 percent of high school students have seriously considered suicide and 14.5 percent have made plans to kill themselves.

Bullying, such as that allegedly experienced by Baldwin, is one of the causes of teen suicide, according to Oppelt and other experts.

According to Family First Aid, nearly 30 percent of teens in the United States (or more than 5.7 million) are estimated to be involved in school bullying as a bully, a target or both. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, approximately 20 percent of students report experiencing cyberbullying in their lifetimes, with the most common types of cyberbullying being hurtful comments and rumors spread online.

According to Oppelt, early warning signs of teenagers experiencing depression and possibly thoughts of suicide include:

  • Stress over school
  • Struggles with friendships
  • Feelings of being misunderstood by parents or teachers
  • Social isolation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Developmental issues
  • Talk of dying
  • Recent loss
  • Sudden changes in personality
  • Difficulty in concentrating or sleeping
  • Sense of hopelessness

CONTACT We Care offers suicide prevention training to schools and educators to help them spot early warning signs of teenagers and children experiencing depression and perhaps suicidal thoughts. Schools interested in training should call Sue Fasano at CONTACT We Care at 1-908-301-1899. Programs can be designed to fit individual budgets.

In addition to texting, teenagers experiencing problems can call the hotline at 1-908-232-2880, 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-SUICIDE.

While the new texting service was launched with teenagers in mind it is available to anyone experiencing a crisis and needing help, Oppelt added.

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