The numbers are alarming.

According to the latest data from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,
795 Garden State residents took their own lives in 2017 — which means on average, someone in New Jersey commits suicide every 11 hours.

As we mark Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September, a special Suicide Prevention conference will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 10 at the Trenton War Memorial.

Debra Wentz, the president and CEO of New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, said the idea “is to raise awareness about suicide and (deliver) information that’s targeted specifically towards health care professionals.”

The conference “will be detailing the importance of understanding the complexities of individuals who are at risk of attempting suicide," she said. It'll also focus on the ways healthcare providers can screen and treat patients.

She said unfortunately, many people feel uncomfortable asking others if they're struggling with suicidal thoughts — "and we must let people know it is okay to ask those difficult questions because it may save someone’s life.”

She noted while New Jersey’s suicide rate per 100,000 is 8.36 percent, “the national average is 14 per 100,000, so comparatively we have a low rate, but one suicide is one too many.”

Wentz said one worrisome trend is the number of suicides among New Jersey teens and pre-teens is on the rise.

New Jersey Department of Health data shows 27 individuals under the age of 18 completed suicide in 2017.

Wentz noted the data shows between 2016 and 2017 there was a 21% increase in boys ages 15 to 19 completing suicide, and an 8% increase in girls age 15 to 19.

She stressed expanding screening for suicidal ideation is important for students at all levels of school.

Wentz said other groups that are at an increased risk for attempting and carrying out suicide are veterans, those in the armed forces, law enforcement officers and the elderly.

The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, along mental health education group Attitudes in Reverse, will additionally host a suicide prevention conference on Sept. 23 to focus on suicide by youths.

More information is available at

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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