WESTFIELD – Following a recent media report that suicides on New Jersey rail lines are increasing, suicide prevention and crisis intervention hotline CONTACT We Care is reminding the public that the best way to stop someone in crisis from taking their life is to provide them with options.
“The recent report by the Star Ledger that 2013 is on a pace to be one of the deadliest years for rail deaths in New Jersey underscores the crisis our nation is facing on the issue of suicide,” said Joanne Oppelt, CONTACT’s executive director. “The suicide rate in the United States has been increasing every year since 1999, rising more than 30 percent between 1999 and 2010. Every 13.7 minutes someone in the United States dies by suicide and more than 38,000 people died by suicide in 2010, including 4,600 young people.
“People in crisis taking their lives on rail tracks is only a symptom of this problem. Putting up more fences and warning signs is of course a good idea but we need to expand our view and realize we need to provide people in crisis with other options before they reach that stage.”
Those options include suicide prevention hotlines, such as CONTACT We Care, according to Oppelt. The Westfield-based hotline with a listening hub in Morristown serves Central and Northern New Jersey and is a primary responder to calls to the national suicide prevention line (1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-SUICIDE) that originate in New Jersey. Callers also reach CONTACT by dialing 908-232-2880 or texting “CWC” to 839863.
Volunteers are trained to respond to be people at risk of suicide or in crisis with an empathetic ear and help them see they have options, Oppelt said.
A study published by the American Association of Suicidology, “An Evaluation of Crisis Hotline Outcomes,” showed a decrease in feelings of emotional distress and suicide both during and following calls to crisis hotline, according to Oppelt. Significant decreases in callers’ crisis states and hopelessness were found during the course of the telephone session, with continuing decreases in crisis states, hopelessness and psychological pain in the following weeks, she added.
“The results of this study suggest that that one of the most effective solutions for preventing suicide is interaction with another human being,” Oppelt said.
Oppelt noted that Sept. 8-14 is National Suicide Prevention Week and the importance that people of all ages know if they are in crisis they are not alone. CONTACT We Care has been aggressively expanding and raising its visibility during the past 18 months in an effort to make more people aware of the hotline and encourage people in crisis to call, Oppelt said.
These efforts have include offering in-school suicide prevention training that enables schools to comply with NJSA 18A:6-111 requiring all public school teaching staff members to complete two hours of instruction in suicide prevention. The training helps educators identify the risk factors of suicide; open a dialogue about suicide so students at risk can get help; access suicide prevention resources to provide to students at risk of suicide; and apply suicide intervention skills when needed.
Previously, CONTACT launched a “Save Our Youth” campaign, designed to raise awareness about teen suicide among teens, parents, educators and community groups and increase resources to help teenagers in crisis. The hotline reaches into schools to promote CONTACT’s phone number and texting option and distribute literature. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among children 10-14, the third leading cause of death of youth aged 15-24 and the second leading cause of death among college students.
CONTACT also introduced texting services, as more than 60 percent of teenagers prefer 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.
“National Suicide Prevention Week is a time when health care and nonprofit organizations committed to reducing suicide make an extra effort to raise public awareness about the crisis of suicide in the United States,” Oppelt said. “But suicide is a year-round issue and it is essential that we never stop trying to show people in crisis that they have options and are not alone. Someone is there for them to help them find a better way than taking their own life.”
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