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The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, Inc. (SPTS) announced that it has provided funding for calls made to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK originating in New Jersey to be answered within the state 24 hours a day/7 days a week, to begin on/around December 1, 2012 for the period of 3 months.  SPTS has been advocating for the state of New Jersey to answer these calls for over 3 years.  The cost of doing so is approximately $200,000 per year; a mere pittance with respect to the $31.7 billion annual state budget. The funds provided by SPTS will allow Governor Christie three months to determine how to fund the calls going forward.

SPTS shares similar concerns as Governor Christie regarding the mental health of the citizens of NJ, especially following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.  Scott Fritz, President and Co-Founder of the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide states, “Unlike Governor Christie and the state, the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide can no longer sit by while calls continue to be answered elsewhere or dropped at a higher rate than most states experience.  SPTS is urging the Governor to put his money where his mouth is and fund the Lifeline.” The financial support provided by the Society is only for the next three months, which should permit the state, if it is serious about answering the Lifeline, to appropriate the funds to serve the citizens of NJ.

Though Governor Christie has done an exceptional job at leading the residents of NJ through the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, he continues to ignore the fact that calls made to the Lifeline are rarely answered within the state.  Both the Governor and his wife, Mary Pat, have expressed, in public forums, their concerns over the mental health of NJ residents following the storm – and with good reason.  (According to the coroner’s office in New Orleans, the city’s suicide rate nearly tripled in the months after Katrina.)[i]  In 2010 there were 719 reported suicides in the state of NJ, 80 of which were youth suicides;[ii]  a number that tragically continues to rise.

There are 24,000 suicide related calls made by New Jersey residents ever year, according to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.[iii]  The Lifeline is promoted throughout the state by a number of the departments, even though they are well aware that the line is not being answered in the state.  The Lifeline number was even referenced in post-storm material that was recently released by the New Jersey Traumatic Loss Coalition.  Because the Governor has not made it a priority to provide funding for the call centers in NJ, close to 80% of the calls are either not answered or transferred to call centers in Miami, Florida.  The calls made to the Lifeline are for help – not to be ignored or pushed off.

The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide was founded in 2005 by New Jersey dads, Scott Fritz and Don Quigley, who had both lost teenage children to suicide.  The mission of the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide is to reduce the number of youth suicides and attempted suicides by encouraging overall public awareness through the development of educational training programs to provide competent communities. SPTS is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charity.

[i] Cooper, Anderson. Anderson Cooper Blog. New Orleans’ Suicide Rate Nearly Triples. June 27, 2006. http://edition.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/anderson.cooper.360/blog/2006/06/new-orleans-suicide-rate-nearly.html

ii] John L. McIntosh, Ph.D. and Christopher W. Drapeau, M.A. U.S.A. SUICIDE: 2010 OFFICIAL FINAL DATA. American Association of Suicidology. September 21, 2012