UNION – A new statewide suicide hotline and new overdose prevention law are saving lives and can help students whose struggles with the pressures of university life can sometimes seem daunting, the Commissioner of Human Services and Secretary of Higher Education stressed last month while meeting with 300 Kean University student mentors.
The mentors, coordinated by the university’s Office of Student Affairs, are preparing to help incoming freshmen navigate the campus as well as adjust to the academic and social aspects of a new and often stressful phase of their lives.
“Kean University is committed to ensuring the safety and well being of all of our students through campus-wide programs, services and peer mentorship,” said Janice Murray-Laury, vice president for student affairs at Kean. “Our mentors are trained to provide reliable and responsible solutions to student concerns, so integrating the new statewide suicide hotline and overdose prevention laws as one of our resources will help us alleviate students’ stressors and potentially save lives.”
Commissioner of Human Services Jennifer Velez and Higher Education Secretary Rochelle Hendricks thanked the mentors for their service and asked for their help in informing students about the hotline and the law, and in fighting the stigma that can prevent people from seeking treatment for behavioral and emotional health issues.
“College life can be exciting and interesting but for some students, the academic and social pressures can cause anxiety or depression, which could lead to dangerous behaviors,” said Velez. “Hope and help are available – 24 hours a day, seven days a week whether through the suicide hotline – NJHOPELINE (855-654-6735) – or through 911 for overdose situations.”
The hotline, where callers reach New Jersey-based counselors with access to statewide professional mental health services, began operating May 1. More than 2,600 people had called as of late August.
“The suicide hotline is working. People are reaching out and counselors are getting them immediate help before they make the irreversible and devastating decision to end their life,” Velez said.
Hendricks said she saw the positive results of suicide prevention efforts when she was an administrator at Princeton University.
“We want everyone to know about this life-saving resource that can help students cope with problems that can seem overwhelming at this stage in their lives. Help is available. It is always available, and students should know that there is a trained person who will listen, care and know what to do,” Hendricks said, referring to the hotline. “I have seen suicide prevention services in action, and I know that they work.”
In addition to the suicide hotline, New Jersey has a new statute called The Overdose Prevention Act, also known as the Good Samaritan Law. Signed May 2 by Governor Chris Christie, it protects most people from prosecution if they call emergency services when someone is overdosing on alcohol or drugs.
“Save a life. Don’t think twice, just call 911. That’s what we want people to do,” Velez said. “In many cases, people don’t report overdoses because they are afraid they will be arrested and charged with a crime. We don’t want fear to stop someone from saving a life.”
Velez also asked the mentors to make sure students are aware of where they can get information about substance abuse treatment: 1-800-662-HELP.
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