With residents of New Jersey being asked to stay home to fight the spread of COVID-19, many people find themselves feeling isolated and experiencing high levels of anxiety.

Caring Contact, a local listening and crisis hotline, continues to help individuals during this difficult time. As a member agency of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Caring Contact cares for those who are in crisis in central and northern New Jersey and acts as a backup to other Lifeline agencies throughout the country.

Additionally, they operate a local “warm” line to assist individuals who may not be in crisis but are experiencing stress themselves, with a family member, friend or co-worker.

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Approximately 90 volunteers answer the phone lines at Caring Contact.

“It has been a challenge during this time to ensure that volunteers are kept safe,” stated Executive Director Janet Sarkos. “All business operations were moved remotely in early March. We've altered our hotline operations so that only one listener at any a time is in each of our phone rooms. We are working together as an organization to ensure each phone station and other “common touch areas” are cleaned thoroughly between listeners, to further protect against contamination. It is vital that we continue to answer calls during this time of heightened anxiety.”

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But even with these office precautions, Sarkos is aware that things might get worse before they get better. For that reason, Caring Contact has updated their telephone and IT systems, so they can now transition many of their volunteers to answer both the Lifeline and the local warm line from remote locations.

“This will ensure flexibility and optimal coverage as things evolve in the coming weeks and months,” said Sarkos. “Call volume is up. We took 2,986 calls in the first quarter last year as compared to 4,012 this year. We've been tracking COVID-related calls. In the middle of March 20% of our calls were COVID-related. From 3/29 - 4/12, it had risen to 32%. This issue is not going away anytime soon.”

If you are interested in learning more about Caring Contact please visit their website at www.caringcontact.org.  If you, or someone you know, is in crisis please call National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 800-273-8255, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

If you are feeling isolated and need to talk to someone please call Caring Contact at 908-232-2880, seven days a week from 7 a.m. — 11 p.m. (based on volunteer availability).  We are here to listen.