Health & Wellness

Suicide Prevention Week: Local Listening Line Offers Tips for Coping

Joanne Oppelt, executive director of suicide prevention hotline CONTACT We Care, with Kevin Seung, who lost his son to suicide in 1999. Credits: Christopher Reardon

WESTFIELD, NJ -- With Suicide Prevention Week coming Sept. 7-13, local crisis listening line CONTACT We Care is offering tips for coping with both suicidal thoughts. In addition, CONTACT's listeners and texters are available 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. to provide a trained empathetic earn to those who call or text looking for help when in crisis.

The hotline also will be offering Mental Health First Aid Training to the public Saturday, Sept. 19.

Headquartered in Westfield, CONTACT We Care is an award-winning, volunteer-staffed caring and crisis hotline and listening community. They provide active listening support and best-in-class education to the Central and Northern New Jersey community. More than 200 volunteer listeners and texters field more than 15,000 calls and texts annually. Just $15 pays to answer one call or text to the hotline from someone in crisis or contemplating suicide.

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"Someone dies by suicide every 14.2 minutes and more than 40,000 Americans die by suicide each year," said Joanne Oppelt, CONTACT executive director. "Suicide is not just a crisis faced by adults; it 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. Approximately 4,600 teenagers die by suicide each year.

"One in four American adults experiences mental health illness in any given year. Our mission is to both help people cope with these feelings and to be here when they call for our help."

CONTACT offers these tips for coping with suicidal thoughts:

  • Promise not to do anything now.
  • Try problem-solving. You may have more control over the situation than you think. If it seems insurmountable, try baby steps.
  • Make your environment safe. Remove items you might be tempted to use to hurt yourself.
  • Go through reasons for living.
  • Seek human contact, even if it is just by going shopping. Don't isolate yourself.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Speak with someone your trust or seek professional help.
  • Call CONTACT We Care or another suicide hotline. CONTACT has listeners and texters are trained in helping those in crisis to find a solution and can also refer them to additional professional help.

Research showed a decrease in feelings of emotional distress and suicide both during and following calls to crisis hotline. 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.

To help people help others who are struggling with an emotional crisis, CONTACT We Care regularly offers Mental Health First Aid Training. This is an eight-hour course that teaches participants how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The training helps participants identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

The training is ideal for first responders, educators, clergy, leaders of community groups and business professionals as well as for families with members suffering from mental illness or mental health issues.

The next round of Mental health First Aid Training is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 19, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the RWJ Fitness Wellness Center in Clark. The cost is $75. For more information or to enroll, contact CONTACT We Care at 908.301.1899 or visit

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer listener or text consultant at CONTACT We Care should contact the agency at 908-301-1899.

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. 

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