New Jersey’s new suicide hotline has been up and running for about two weeks and already it has been inundated with hundreds of calls. The hotline comes as new data shows that the suicide rate has increased in New Jersey among some adults. To discuss the response to the new service, Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor spoke with Jennifer Velez, Commissioner of the Department of Human Services.
When someone in distress calls the hotline — 855-645-6735 — Velez said that caller reaches a live trained credentialed person on the other end.
Calling the response to the hotline “tremendous,” Velez said having a live, trained credentialed person on the other end of the phone.
While New Jersey has the second lowest suicide rate in the nation, Velez said it was important to have an in-state resource available for people, and cited some spikes in some counties.
“Monmouth County had a tremendous spike for some youth in its county,” she said “We’ve had pockets of volunteers throughout the state who have done a good job but there were times when the call volume would be such that they would be bounced out of state and this is the first time that we’ve had an in-state resources available 24/7.”
For the person in distress who is calling, Velez said it is essential that that person reaches a credentialed professional immediately.
“You can’t in this particular time when you place a phone call be bounced to series of prompts. I mean that would be an unacceptable response to somebody in distress,” said Velez.
The state has seen an uptick in the number of suicides. Velez said she has been asked whether superstorm Sandy was a contributing factor in the recent trend.
“That’s an aggravating factor of course but it’s a combination of factors and I think it’s really complex why somebody would pick up the phone in this time of need,” she said.
Velez emphasized that the hotline is for everybody — youth, middle-aged people, and seniors.