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Westfield-Based Suicide Prevention Hotline Offers Enhanced Training for New Volunteer Listeners


Suicide prevention and crisis intervention hotline CONTACT We Care will be offering its next round of training for new volunteer listeners beginning March 12 in Westfield.

For the first time new volunteers will not only receive training in active listening skills and how to handle the broad range of calls received on the hotline but also will be provided Applied Suicide Intervention Training (ASIST), the internationally acclaimed two-day interactive training in suicide first-aid.

The next round of training begins Wednesday, March 12, 7:00 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 11 weeks, with a one-week break and a two-day ASIST training weekend. The only expense is $75 to cover the cost of training materials.

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Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer listener or seeking additional information should contact Sue Fasano, director of programs at the hotline, at 908.301.1899 or

CONTACT We Care 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.

The hotline relies on more than 140 volunteer trained listeners and texters to respond to be people feeling suicidal or in crisis with an empathetic ear and help them see they have options, according to Fasano.

“Every 13.7 minutes someone in the United States dies by suicide,” she said. “More than 38,000 people died by suicide in 2010, more people than died in car accidents, including 4,600 young people. And for every one suicide there are 25 attempts.

“The suicide rate has been increasing every year since 1999, rising more than 30 percent between 1999 and 2010. More alarming, the rate of teen suicide has been rising since 1975. In addition, the suicide rate for middle-aged Americans has been rising, raising concerns about a wave of retiring baby boomers entering a stage of their lives when they begin to feel overwhelmed by life issues and life choices.”

Callers and texters to CONTACT We Care are of all ages, genders and economic backgrounds.

“Some are experiencing thoughts of suicide while many others are experiencing some crisis in their life, from a young person being bullied to an adult going through a divorce or a parent distraught over financial struggles,” she said.

“These people are our neighbors. They are reaching out to us and our listeners and texters are there when they need someone. Imagine how it would feel to be in crisis or thinking about suicide, want to talk to someone and have no one to turn to. We make sure that doesn’t happen.”

People who might think about volunteering to be a listener but are unsure of their ability to handle such a responsibility should not be concerned, according to Fasano. Volunteers attend 60 hours of training and then are teamed with an experienced listener before taking calls solo, she said.

Volunteer listeners at the hotline report they achieve a great sense of reward for their efforts in providing empathic support to people in turmoil. 

“People say we must be very special because we go on the line with people in distress but I look at it as a gift to me,” said Laurie Feinberg, a retired teacher.  “When you are on the line with someone who is depressed or suicidal, you walk away grateful you’re not making that call, grateful for what you have and grateful you can be there for them.  You can’t give anyone anything better than being a caring, empathic listener.”

About CONTACT We Care

CONTACT We Care is Central and Northern New Jersey’s crisis listening line, receiving more than 12,000 calls per year.  CONTACT brings comfort and hope to people in emotional distress through active, empathetic and nonjudgmental listening.  All calls are free, anonymous and confidential.  If you are in crisis and need someone to listen, call our hotline at 908-232-2880.  We are affiliated with CONTACT USA, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and the American Association of Suicidology.  For general information about CONTACT We Care or to become a volunteer, call us at 908-301-1899 or visit our website at

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