Mental Health Awareness Month: Resources for New Jerseyans

Mental Health Awareness Month, recognized nationwide each May, highlights the importance of the well-being of adults, adolescents, and children.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five adults live with some sort of mental illness, varying in degree from moderate to severe.

As many as one in six children between the ages of 6 and 17 nationwide live with a treatable mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but nearly half of those children do not receive counseling or treatment from a mental health professional or clinical social worker, according to an analysis of National Survey of Children’s Health data.

New Jersey has created a comprehensive directory of State Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services contracted providers. Additional behavioral health resources for families are also available.

New Jersey provides a wide range of mental health resources, some of which can be found online at the state’s 211 webpage. If visitors to the site are unable to locate the resource for which they were looking or still have questions, they should dial 211 to speak with a resource specialist, text their zip code to 898-211 to text with a specialist, or email info@nj211.org.

Families with children in crisis who have been impacted by trauma, depression, violence, defiant behavior, drug or alcohol abuse can contact the New Jersey Children’s System of Care at 1- 877-652-7624. The hotline is always open.

The Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services oversees the state’s adult system of community-based behavioral health services. The agencies provide a full array of services, including substance abuse prevention and early intervention, emergency screening, outpatient and intensive outpatient mental health and addictions services, partial care and partial hospitalization, case management, medication assisted treatment for substance abuse, and long- and short-term mental health and substance abuse residential services.

The New Jersey Department of Human Services’ Office of Suicide Prevention has curated a collection of resources for members of the public and mental health providers.

Starting July 16, the number 988 will become the nationwide three-digit dialing code for crisis and suicide prevention, replacing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s current 1-800 number. When someone calls 988 anytime on or after July 16, all mobile and landline phones in the United States will connect the dialer with the crisis/suicide prevention system to get help designed specifically for someone dealing with a mental health crisis.

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A recent Stockton University poll of 640 New Jerseyans found 58 percent reported they or someone close to them has experienced mental health issues. Of those reporting they experienced problems, 68 percent said their mental health worsened during the pandemic.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “during the pandemic, concerns about mental health and substance use have grown, including concerns about suicidal ideation.”

At the start of the current legislative session, Senator Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., D-Middlesex, introduced legislation known as the “Improved Suicide Prevention, Response, and Treatment Act.”

The bill (S143) would amend and supplement the law to improve New Jersey’s suicide assessment, response, and treatment system and strengthen the obligations of health care providers, law enforcement officers, and insurers with respect to suicide prevention, response, and care.

The legislation would provide, in particular, for each psychiatric facility, each outpatient mental health treatment provider, and each suicide or crisis hotline operating in the State to have specially trained suicide prevention counselors on staff, during all hours of operation, to assess patients’ suicide risk and provide suicide prevention counseling to patients who are deemed to be at risk of suicide.

The bill would further require the attending physician at a hospital emergency department to have an on-site suicide prevention counselor assess and provide assistance to any emergency room patient who is or may be suicidal. The bill would additionally provide for the governing body of each county to appoint a local suicide prevention response coordinator, who will be responsible for deploying at least one qualified and locally available suicide prevention counselor to assist law enforcement at any emergency scene involving a person who is or may be suicidal.

The legislation would also require all health insurance carriers to provide coverage for the costs that associated with the suicide prevention assessments performed and counseling services rendered pursuant to the bill’s provisions.

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