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Westfield-Based Crisis Listening Line to Offer Suicide Prevention Training and Volunteering Opportunities

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

Are you an empty nester or retiree looking for flexible and rewarding volunteering opportunities?

Become a volunteer listener at Caring Contact, the crisis listening line located in Westfield. Caring Contact will be offering Excellence in Listening training beginning Sept. 18 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 Dec. 11.

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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, which includes materials and certification fees.

This award-winning training enables graduates to become volunteer listeners on the hotline, helping people in crisis and perhaps saving a life. 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.

"Caring Contact offers a flexible, rewarding volunteer opportunity," said Janet Sarkos, the hotline's 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."

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."

Jane Berlant began volunteering at Caring Contact because she was looking for something meaningful to do with her time after her daughter went to college.

"It had to make an impact," she said. "I can't just play golf and tennis and go to lunch. It has given me such a sense of purpose and accomplishment. The biggest reward is knowing that when we hang up someone is feeling a little better at the end of the call than they were at the beginning of the call. It also has changed my life in ways of dealing with people for the better, how I deal with my family, my daughters, how I listen to them. Instead of always wanting to fix things, I now just listen."

The suicide rate in the United States has been increasing every year since 1999, rising more than 24 percent between 1999 and 2014. Every 13.7 minutes someone in the United States dies by suicide and more than 44,000 people died by suicide in 2015, including 5,400 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. 

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

Anyone interested in registering for the training should visit http://caringcontact.org/volunteer-listener-application/.

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.

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.

About Caring Contact

Caring Contact is an award-winning, volunteer-staffed caring and crisis hotline providing active listening support and best-in-class education to the Central and Northern New Jersey community. We attentively and compassionately serve those in emotional distress and educate our communities about the power of personal connection. We are affiliated with CONTACT USA, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the American Association of Suicidology. 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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