Health & Wellness

Crisis Listening Line to Offer Suicide Prevention Training and Volunteering Opportunities

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WESTFIELD, NJ -- Are you a good listener? Do you want to make a difference in the life of someone in crisis?

Crisis listening line Caring Contact will offer Excellence in Listening training beginning March 20 at the First Baptist Church at 170 Elm Street in Westfield. Classes run for three hours one night a week, plus one full weekend, ending June 12.This award-winning training enables graduates to become volunteer listeners on the hotline, helping people in crisis and perhaps saving a life.

Caring Contact is an award-winning, volunteer-staffed caring and crisis hotline and listening community, providing active listening support and best-in-class training to the Central and Northern New Jersey community. More than 100 trained volunteer listeners answered nearly 9,000 calls last year from people in crisis, having suicidal thoughts or simply feeling depressed and lonely.

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Through the training, volunteers receive 52 hours of comprehensive training in active listening. In addition volunteers become certified in Mental Health First Aid and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training. Volunteers develop the ability to listen actively, assess the needs of someone in crisis and provide empathy and support.

The cost is $299 and includes materials and certification fees.

The training also is excellent for individuals who do not want to become volunteer listeners. This training is valuable for educators and parents, first responders, social workers, counselors, clergy, business managers and community group leaders.

The suicide rate in the U.S. has been increasing every year since 1999, rising more than 24 percent between 1999 and 2014. Every 13.7 minutes someone in the America dies by suicide, and more than 42,000 people died by suicide in 2013 -- including 4,600 young people. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged 10-24 and four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs.

Research has shown that suicide prevention training results in a stable and significant increase in a trainee's readiness to intervene with a person at risk. 

"Caring Contact offers a flexible, rewarding volunteer opportunity," said Janet Sarkos, the hotline's interim executive director. "People who have been told they are a good listener and have a yearning to volunteer should consider becoming a Caring Contact listener."

Following training, new volunteer listeners are supported by seasoned listeners during 24 hours of internship before they take calls on their own. Even once a volunteer is a certified listener, the hotline provides a range of support and training opportunities to allow them to keep honing their skills.

Colleen Mannix has been volunteering at Caring Contact for about two years. She came to the hotline with a master's degree in counseling and was impressed with the professionalism of the training and how prepared it makes volunteers to take calls.

"I thought it was really comprehensive," Mannix said. "They prepare you for every scenario. It provides an understanding of mental health that is really important for volunteers who don't have a background in counseling."

Eileen Burlinson has been a part of the Caring Contact listening community for many years.

“This experience of being a listener has changed me in so many ways," she said. "Accepting people as they are at the moment, not needing to change them. I think learning to listen the way we learn at Caring Contact is a gift. We sit back and try to really hear what the person is saying. It doesn’t matter what you are going to say, the caller just wants to be heard. Once this becomes a part of your life, you tend to use the skills in all aspects of your life."

Anyone interested in volunteering should visit http://caringcontact.org/give-support/volunteer/. There are non-listening volunteering opportunities, as well.

Caring Contact 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 Caring Contact by dialing 908-232-2880. Those preferring to seek supporting through texting may text “heart” to 741-741. The hotline also provides best-in-class training to the Central and Northern New Jersey Community.

If you are in crisis and need someone to listen, call us at 908-232-2880.To learn more, visit www.caringcontact.org.

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