WESTFIELD – CONTACT We Care, a crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline, will begin its next round of training for volunteer listeners starting Wednesday, Sept. 19 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.
The training will begin shortly after National Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 9-15, and CONTACT hopes the raised public awareness of the dangers of suicide will lead to an increase in much-needed volunteers at the hotline, according to Sue Fasano, director of programs.
National Suicide Prevention Week is a nationwide effort of suicide prevention organizations and movements to raise awareness about suicide and funds for combating the crises, build field advocacy and encourage participation in Out of Darkness Community Walks throughout the nation.
“There are adults and teenagers in our community who are in crisis and desperately need someone to talk with to help them through what could be a life-defining or even tragic moment,” said Fasano. “Suicide has been increasing every year since 2000 and jumps during hard economic times. At the same time, one in every 10 Americans suffers from depression while as many as 20 percent of teens experience depression and think about suicide before reaching adulthood.
“Our more than 100 volunteer listeners make a difference in the lives behind the 12,000 calls we receive each year. With more listeners we can help even more callers and have a greater impact.”
Volunteer listeners 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 training in suicide intervention skills. The hotline also offers texting services, as more than 60 percent of teenagers prefer texting to other forms of communication, and certain volunteers are trained on this technology, as well. Listeners are asked to volunteer an average of eight hours per month at times convenient for them.
“Our volunteers are trained to be empathetic listeners and to let callers and texters recognize they may have the solution themselves,” Fasano said. “They are not asked to be psychiatrists or solve every caller’s every problem.
“Our listeners also report they gain a sense of reward for their efforts. When a caller or listener says thank you, that we’ve helped them, they know they made a difference in someone’s life at a critical moment. They walk away from that call or shift feeling better about themselves.”
CONTACT We Care has planned a number of activities to tie into National Suicide Prevention Week and show appreciation for its listeners, who the hotline has asked to commit to 100 percent shift coverage during the week, according to Fasano. For example, Hershey’s of Westfield has agreed to donate food for listeners a la carte, enabling them to order what they want when they want it.
In addition, CONTACT will team with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline during the week. On Sept. 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, CONTACT listeners will light a candle at 8:00 p.m. along with others committed to suicide prevention throughout the world. CONTACT also will use social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to publicize the week, share information about special Lifeline events and post messages and purple and turquoise suicide prevention ribbons, Fasano explained.
“Suicide is a preventable tragedy yet the numbers surrounding suicide tell us we have so much work to do,” she said.
According to various sources:
- More than 37,000 people take their life every year in the United States – one every 15 minutes
- For every completed suicide there are 11 attempts
- 3.7 percent of adults had serious thoughts of suicide in the last year while 2.3 million made a plan
- 5,000 young people aged 10-24 die by suicide each year and 25 teen suicides are attempted for each one that is completed
- Nearly one in five high school students have seriously considered suicide; nearly one in six have made plans to kill themselves; nearly one in 12 have attempted suicide
- The suicide rate among youth has been increasing since 1975
“Our volunteers help attack these alarming numbers,” Fasano said. “Research shows a decreased state of crisis and hopelessness during and following calls to crisis hotlines. We hope more volunteers will enroll in our upcoming training and join us in making this difference.”
To volunteer as a CONTACT We Care listener and enroll in training, call 1-908-301-1899 or visit www.contactwecare.org. Pre-registration is required for both.