In recognition of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, CONTACT We Care is sharing helpful information about mental illness, including signs and symptoms and screening advice.

Headquartered in Westfield, CONTACT We Care is a suicide prevention agency that operates a suicide prevention and crisis intervention hotline and provides suicide prevention training to the public, community groups and businesses.

"Mental illness is a serious problem in the United States, more serious than people realize," said Joanne Oppelt, executive director of the hotline. "One in four adults experiences mental health illness in any given year. It knows no age or socioeconomic barriers. The truth is that statistics tell us it is likely that your co-worker, your neighbor or even a loved one will experience mental illness.

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"Therefore, we are encouraging everyone to learn the signs , ask for help if needed – including calling CONTACT We Care if you are feeling depressed or are in crisis – and address symptoms early so you can plan an appropriate course of action toward overall health."

According to the Mayo Clinic, mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions – disorders that affect mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

  • One in four adults experience mental illness in a given year.

  • Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year.

  • Approximately 18 percent of American adults live with anxiety disorders while about 6.7 percent live with depression.

  • Approximately 60 percent of adults and almost half of youth ages 8 to 15 with mental illness received no mental health services in the previous year.

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and third leading cause of death for ages 15-24 and more than 90 percent of those who die by suicide have one or more mental disorders.

The American Psychiatric Association list signs and symptoms of mental illness as including:

  • Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in others and activities.

  • An unusual drop in functioning, especially at school or work.

  • Problems with concentration, memory or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain.

  • A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings; a sense of unreality.

  • Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling.

  • Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or deterioration in personal hygiene.

  • Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings, or mood swings.


Mental Health America recommends that one of the easiest ways to determine if you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition is to take a mental health screening by visiting

CONTACT We Care also offers Mental Health First Aid training that is ideal for first responders, educators, clergy, leaders of community groups and business professionals as well as families with members suffering from mental illness or mental health issues. As part of the training certified Mental Health First Aid instructors provide a list of community health care providers and national resources, support groups and online tools for mental health and addictions treatment and support.

Anyone interested in this training should contact Sue Fasano, director of programs at CONTACT We Care, 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.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer listener or texter at CONTACT We Care should contact Sue Fasano at 908.301.1899 or

About CONTACT We Care

CONTACT We Care, headquartered in Westfield and with a listening hub in Morristown, is Central and Northern New Jersey’s crisis listening line, receiving more than 17,000 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