Eatontown, NJ (April 2, 2019) – The Community YMCA is helping to lead a statewide effort to prevent suicide, which according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, is the third leading cause of death among New Jersey residents between the ages of 15 and 24.

In January, the Y was selected to serve as lead agency of the Traumatic Loss Coalition for Ocean County, part of the statewide Traumatic Loss Coalition for Youth, a year-round program that provides support for New Jersey schools and communities that have experienced suicide or other traumatic loss and aims to help prevent suicide. For the past three years, the Y has also led the Traumatic Loss Coalition in Monmouth County, which has over 140 members that include school and medical personnel, law enforcement officials, mental health providers and over 45 partnering schools.

“As a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping youth and teens realize their full potential, the Y is honored to lead the Traumatic Loss Coalition in Ocean County,” said Laurie Goganzer, president and chief executive officer of The Community YMCA. “We are proud to expand our efforts to provide communities with the necessary support and guidance following traumatic loss events, as well as education to prevent suicide,” she said.

Stephanie Valenziano, coordinator of the Ocean County Traumatic Loss Coalition, said the group is a “collaborative effort to provide support to youth and communities when there is a traumatic death of a child or school professional. Our goal is to offer support, encourage healthy coping skills, and educate the community about suicide prevention. We look forward to partnering with Ocean County schools, faith-based organizations, and mental health providers to provide hope and healing throughout Ocean County.”

The program is funded through Ocean County Human Services, with a grant from the New Jersey Department of Children & Families, in partnership with Rutgers University Behavioral Healthcare.

“We are pleased that The Community YMCA is providing this vital service to our community and remain committed in supporting their efforts to ensure that those working with youth have up-to-date knowledge about mental health issues, suicide prevention, traumatic grief, and resiliency,” said Ocean County Freeholder Gary Quinn, liaison to the Ocean County Department of Human Services.

The Y has a well-established counseling and social services division that provides a wide range of mental and behavioral health counseling and programs to youth, adults, families and schools in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Nearly 60 schools in both counties count on the Y for therapeutic counseling to children coping with difficulties.

In Ocean County, 10 schools now partner with the Y to provide services to respond to traumatic loss, and that number is growing, Valenziano said. Additionally, the Y’s growing therapeutic counseling services in Ocean County are available at Lighthouse Alliance Community Church in Little Egg Harbor and Holy Spirit Lutheran Church, Manahawkin.

In Monmouth County, the Traumatic Loss Coalition is based out of the Y’s Outreach Services office in Eatontown. Therapeutic counseling for children, teens and adults is available at: the YMCA Outpatient Services office, Matawan; Long Branch Community Center, Long Branch; Union Beach Memorial Library, Union Beach; and YMCA Camp Zehnder, Wall.

As a measure of prevention, the Y encourages parents or guardians to consider the following behaviors that may signal risk in their children:

  • Changes in behavior such as isolation or shifting from outgoing to reserved, or changes in friends.
  • Changes in mood or talk about hopelessness.
  • An increased use of alcohol or drugs.

“Ask your child about changes you have observed. Using statements such as ‘I noticed’ can be helpful,” Valenziano said, adding to get involved and seek professional help. Parents who are concerned that their child might be thinking of taking their own life should call Psychiatric Emergency Screening Services at 866.904.4474 (Ocean County) or 732.886.4474 (Monmouth County).

For more information, or to become a member or partner of the Ocean County Traumatic Loss Coalition, contact Valenziano at 732.963.7132 or svalenziano@cymca.org.

About The Community YMCA
The Y is a leading nonprofit charity that strengthens communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. The Community YMCA serves more than 20,000 residents in greater Monmouth County, NJ through programs such as: preschool, before and after school care, summer day camp, teen leadership, arts enrichment, health and wellness and personal and family counseling. In 2018, the Y provided $830,000 in financial assistance and program subsidies to strengthen 2,590 children and families in Monmouth County. For more information, visit TheCommunityYMCA.org.