SCOTCH PLAINS — Joe Clementi told an audience of 175 at a recent local event that he imagines his son, Tyler Clementi, standing on the George Washington Bridge just before jumping to his death on Sept. 22, 2010.
“Sometimes I think about my son on that bridge with his phone in his hand. He decided to send a message,” Clementi said. “It bothers me enormously that he didn’t call me or his mother or one of his brothers.”
Clementi said he appreciates the importance of people in crisis being able to speak with someone and knows that many wish to do so anonymously. That is why he served as the keynote speaker at the CONTACT We Care 2012 Annual Call of Hope Gala that was held Thursday, Oct. 25, at Shackamaxon Country Club in Scotch Plains.
CONTACT We Care is a crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline serving Central and Northern New Jersey and a 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 12,000 calls each year and also interact with people in crisis, particularly teenagers, via texting.
“We are happy to partner with (CONTACT We Care), partners in helping save young people,” Clementi told the audience. “I believe their work to prevent suicide makes the world better by showing that every life has worth,” he added.
An 18-year-old Rutgers University student, Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his roommate used a webcam to record his encounter with another man. Before jumping Tyler sent a text message that read, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”
Joanne Oppelt, executive director of CONTACT We Care, noted that 80 percent of teenagers who commit suicide seek help before taking action. She said suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth aged 15-24 and the fourth leading cause of death for youth aged 10-14 and that CONTACT We Care exists to be there for these young people in crisis, as well as people of all ages who need someone to talk to when in distress.
Oppelt told supporters at the gala that the agency increased calls taken per month by more than 10 percent in 2012, launched its Save Our Youth outreach campaign, introduced a texting service geared toward young people and added 24 new listeners, with 24 more in training.
However, Scott Fritz, president and co-founder of the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide who lost his daughter to suicide, said more
funding and support is needed to enable organizations such as CONTACT to be even more effective.
“If it were not for them these calls would be answered in Miami,” said Fritz, who CONTACT honored with the Teen Advocate of the Year Award at the gala. “It’s not a lot of money to do this work but it’s vital.”
Joe Clementi encouraged the audience to both visit the Tyler Clementi Foundation web site at www.tylerclementi.org and take the pledge to become an upstander versus a bystander in the fight against teen bullying and to continue supporting CONTACT We Care.
“Someday you might need CONTACT We Care or know someone who might need them,” he said.
CONTACT We Care also honored three other supporters at the event, including: PSEG as Corporate Citizen of the Year; General Plumbing Supply as Medium Business of the Year; and Milton Faith as Mental Health Professional and the Year.
Joe Clementi, father of Tyler Clementi and co-founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, is thanked by Joanne Oppelt, executive director of CONTACT We Care after speaking at the agency’s 2012 Annual Call of Hope Gala this past Thursday at Shackamxon Country Club. (Photo courtesy of CONTACT We Care)
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