Historically, New Jersey has had one of the lowest suicide rates of any state in the nation.

But that trend seems to be changing.

The latest CDC statistics available indicate the suicide rate in New Jersey increased almost 26 percent from 1999 to 2014.

The rate in 2014 was 8.3 per 100,000, up from around 5 per 100,000 just a few years ago.

In 2014 there were 804 suicides in the Garden State — 603 men, and 201 women.

A report by the state Health Department finds suicide rates in New Jersey are generally following national trends. They're increasing in most age groups and among both males and females, but the increase is most pronounced in the middle ages of 45 to 64 years. The most frequent method suicide victims die by is suffocation.

George Scott, a Traumatic Loss Coalition of New Jersey resource coordinator, says if you suspect a friend or relative may be thinking about taking their own life, you should not be afraid to speak directly to them about it.

This is a really difficult kind of conversation to begin with somebody. We don’t like being in the presence of life-and-death moments like that.

“One of the myths out there in the culture is that if we talk about it we’re going to plant the idea in people, we’re going to make them think about suicide. It’s quite the contrary,” he said. “Talking about suicide in the proper way is a way of opening up the conversation, and it gets people connected to resources that can be helpful.”

At the same time, Scott acknowledged, “this is a really difficult kind of conversation to begin with somebody. We don’t like being in the presence of life-and-death moments like that. It scares us. It can be overwhelming.”

According to the New Jersey Hopeline, a 24/7 service operated by University Behavioral Health Care (UBHC) at Rutgers University, warning signs of suicide can include:

—— Talking about wanting to die, “wishing” one were dead or making statements about killing oneself.
—— Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
—— Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
—— Talking about being a burden to others.
—— Talking about feeling worthless.
—— Increasing one’s use of alcohol or drugs.
—— Appearing anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly with little regard to one’s future safety.
—— Exploring ways to kill oneself, such as searching for methods online or buying a gun.
—— Changes in one’s sleeping habits.
—— Becoming withdrawn, reserved or isolated.
—— Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
—— Displaying extreme mood swings.

The NJ Hopeline number is 855-NJ-HOPELINE, or 855-654-6735.

How should you reach out to someone you think might be struggling with suicidal thoughts?

Scott says if you do notice odd and disturbing behavior changes, you can say: 'Hey, listen —we’ve been friends for a while. What I’ve noticed is you’ve had a lot of different things going on that’s really been getting you down and I feel like we’re losing touch. I was wondering, are you having thoughts of taking your own life?”

He stressed “that’s a great way to introduce the topic and if you’re connected to the person they’re more likely to acknowledge that than deny that.”

According to Scott, taking this kind of direct approach may be the difference between life and death.

“One of the things we never know is what will be the stress event that will happen in their lives that makes them begin to spiral out of control," he said. “You know it’s a very fragile and very precarious emotional state, so therefore if we find ourselves in a position to help somebody we should not walk away, do it tomorrow, we should do it then and there.”

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