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Help for those contemplating suicide a phone call away

By Jaccii Farris, Reporter, JFarris@wfmz.com
Published On: Sep 19 2013 04:41:43 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 19 2013 10:27:23 PM CDT

Suicide is not something many people want to talk about, but talking about it can be the first step in preventing it.

Suicide is not something many people want to talk about, but talking about it can be the first step in preventing it.

If you have suicidal thoughts or fear someone you know is thinking about taking their life, pick up the phone.

"People who answer the hotline phones are crisis interventionists and they have many years of experience," said Amy Groh, with SAM Crisis Intervention Services in Reading.

In every county across Pennsylvania, there is someone who cares.

"Some people will identify why they are calling right away. Some people don't really know how to start and they just start talking," said Lisa Cozzi, Lehigh County crisis counselor.

County and national suicide hotlines are open 24 hours a day, and everything you say is confidential.

"We provide alternatives where we are able to say, 'You are not alone. There are support groups out there. There is treatment out there," said Ed Michalik, Berks County mental health administrator.

In Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties, suicide prevention and survival resources extend beyond a voice on the phone.

"We have mobile crisis counseling where we can actually go out into the community and meet with people and talk about their issues and try to develop some sort of a plan for treatment," said Gary Ruschman, Northampton County crisis information and referral director.

County crisis offices can also provide walk-in counseling and support, but making the call to a crisis hotline can be a powerful first step.

On the other end of the line, you will find people like Cozzi.

"My grandfather attempted suicide," said Cozzi. "He didn't succeed, and he went on to live on for many years after that. I was 14 when that happened."

Cozzi has worked the Lehigh County crisis hotline since 1998. She said she loves her job because she understands what callers are going through.

"Sometimes we just provide support because some people just need to talk and they don't have anyone to talk to," said Cozzi.

Crisis counselors are standing by 24 hours a day in Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties.

All you have to do is dial the number. In Berks County, it's 610-236-0530; Lehigh County is 610-782-3127; and Northampton County is 610-252-9060.

The national number is 1-800-273-8255.