A suicide hotline for New Jersey has received about 300 calls since it was launched May 1, state officials said Thursday.
The service - NJHOPELINE, or 855-654-6735 - was created after New Jersey's suicide rate for people 35 to 64 increased 31 percent from 1999 to 2010, officials reported.
While the increase is cause for concern, New Jersey still has the second-lowest suicide rate in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The hotline is operated by University Behavioral HealthCare at the University of Medicine and Dentistry, using only New Jersey-based trained volunteer and professional counselors.
Officials are concerned that stress related to property damage and losses from Hurricane Sandy could have a long-term emotional impact on some residents.
"It's important for residents who are feeling alone, desperate, or in distress to have a safe outlet, someone who they can connect with and who can provide professional counsel," Jennifer Velez, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services, said in a statement Thursday.
"Using trained counselors who are based in New Jersey helps callers to relate easier and can help lead to fewer suicides," she said.
Human Services spent $648,981 to create the 24/7 hotline that gives callers a live volunteer. Callers will not be routed to an automated system.
"The rate of suicides in the United States is rapidly escalating. It has risen by more than 30 percent in the past 10 years," said Christopher Kosseff, vice president and chief executive officer for Behavioral HealthCare's mental-health services. "The State of New Jersey is taking definitive action to help reduce the rate of suicides by funding the New Jersey Hopeline."
According to the CDC, suicide is a leading cause of death for people 10 to 24, third to accidents and homicides. Most adolescent suicides occur in the afternoon or early evening and in the home.
The suicide-rate increase in New Jersey among young adults and minors was about the same as a national increase of 28 percent.