WESTFIELD–CONTACT We Care will host its 2012 annual Call of Hope Gala Thursday, October 25, at Shackamaxon Country Club in Scotch Plains to raise funds for programs and services and to promote awareness about the facts of personal crisis and suicide and the need for volunteer listeners.
Joe Clementi, father of Tyler Clementi and founders of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, will speak about teen suicide and the need to address the growing issue of bullying among young people. Tyler Clementi was the Rutgers University student who committed suicide after discovering his roommate had recorded and made public his intimacy with another man.
CONTACT We Care is a crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline serving Central and Northern New Jersey and the primary responder to calls to the national suicide prevention line (1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-SUICIDE) that originate in New Jersey. Volunteer listeners at CONTACT answer more than 11,000 calls each year and also interact with people in crisis, particularly teenagers, via texting.
“Every month about 70 young people in New Jersey attempt suicide,” said Joanne Oppelt, CONTACT executive director. “School issues, relationships with parents and friends and, increasingly, bullying contribute to their sense of crisis. Lennin Baldwin in Morristown, Zachery Gray in Florida, Rachel Ehmke in Minnesota and Amanda Cummings in Staten Island were just a few of the young lives we lost to teen suicide due to bullying this year alone. With proper education and awareness we can reach these young people and allow them to see they have a way out of their distress.
“Having a parent of Tyler Clementi speaking for us will make a difference in countless lives by helping us spread the word that this is an epidemic that needs to be fought and that organizations like CONTACT We Care can help fight it with sufficient resources.”
This March, CONTACT launched its Save Our Youth campaign, which is designed to raise awareness about teen suicide and increase resources to help teenagers in crisis. The agency also introduced texting, which enables “listeners” to communicate with troubled teens in the way many are most comfortable with.
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.
“With proper exposure and resources we can attack those numbers while also helping the thousands of adults who need our help because they also are experiencing crisis, whether due to finances, divorce, loss of a loved one or some other problem,” Oppelt said. “We receive far more calls than we can answer. Most of New Jersey’s calls to the suicide lifeline get routed out of state, where callers might have to wait 16 rings before their call is picked up. Can you imagine feeling suicidal and having to wait 16 rings before someone picks up?”
At the gala CONTACT We Care also will honor: PSEG as Corporate Citizen of the Year; General Plumbing Supply as Small Business of the Year; Milton Faith, who retired from Youth and Family Counseling Service after 47 years and now operates a private practice in Short Hills, as Mental Health Professional and the Year; and Scott Fritz, president of the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, as Teen Advocate of the Year.
Tickets for the Call of Hope Gala are $150 each and $1,200 for a table of 10. Sponsorship and ad journal opportunities also are available. To purchase tickets or for more information about sponsorship and ad journal opportunities, contact Leslie Patrizio at 1-908-451-3765 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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