Suicide Prevention: An Unending Need [AUDIO]
New Jersey's suicide rate among adults has ranked near the bottom nationwide, but according to experts, it's still not low enough.
Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Jennifer Velez said New Jersey is constantly making strides in suicide prevention, but certain pockets of the state continue to experience spikes. She noted Monmouth County has been plagued with a spike in youth suicide.
Velez on Wednesday toured the state's first suicide hotline call center in Piscataway, which launched on May 1.
Anyone who calls will be connected to a live, in-state counselor. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"We hope not to be busy, but when people call, those calls will be answered by a live person," Velez said.
Before this month's launch, a national helpline had been available for those in need, but calls would occasionally be bounced out of state.
NJ Hopeline, which can reached by simply dialing its name, is operated by University Behavioral HealthCare at the University of Medicine and Dentistry. The center handled approximately 300 calls during its first week of operation.
"I think that the work that we're doing is very important for everyone in the state," said Irena Guberman, a temporary supervisor at the call center. "Our goal is to help them in whatever way we can and get them to a safe place."
According to Commissioner Velez, the state has seen an increase in the need for crisis counseling services since Superstorm Sandy hit. Stress related to property damage and loss could have a severe, long-term emotional impact on some New Jersey residents.