Eleanor Letcher, long time Executive Director of CONTACT of Mercer County, NJ, graduated from Douglass College, Rutgers University and has a Master’s in Education from The College of New Jersey.
In her many years at CONTACT she has seen huge changes in the way that Mental Illness and Suicide Prevention services are offered. In the past there was major stigma surrounding Mental Illness to the point that people typically didn’t disclose any reference to personal or familial Mental Health challenges. Fortunately, the major stigma has lessened although stigma still exists in the minds of many people. Stigma can and does prevent people from seeking services.
In the early days of CONTACT’s Hotlines in 1970’s and 1980’s, suicide was rarely discussed by callers. There were very few mentions of suicide in the media as compared to today. Now, across media, Suicide and Mental Illness are prevalent topics, headlines in newspapers and major topics in online media and television.
As the awareness of Mental Illness and Suicide has grown in the population, the world has been stricken by Covid and lockdowns and restrictions. More people have been affected by loneliness, isolation, depression and mental illness as well as thoughts of suicide. People need to reach out. Talking helps when there is someone who listens and cares. CONTACT provides that help to many via active listening and emotional support, and in rare cases, active intervention is started when a person is in imminent risk of suicide.
The introduction of 988 nationally in July, 2022, brought increased awareness as well as funding to Hotlines across the US. CONTACT’s range of Hotlines includes phone, text and chat. CONTACT of Mercer County, NJ provides person to person response to 988 Calls, Chats, Texts. This is a service that will grow as the need continues to increase.
Eleanor Letcher has lead CONTACT through these many challenges and foresees future changes in CONTACT’s provision of care, including increased services and support to those who use CONTACT’s Hotlines and Reassurance programs.
There is Hope for the future!