MAYWOOD, N.J. — Ashley Morolla of Maywood comes face to face with suicidal people all the time.
A licensed professional counselor, the 31-year-old works in psychiatric emergency screening services at a New Jersey hospital.
“We see people in their most vulnerable states,” she said.
What she sees inspires her to volunteer as board chair for the Northern New Jersey Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) .
That means she presents free programs with titles such as “More Than Sad” and “Talk Saves Lives” at police departments, schools, corporations, military gatherings, and other venues.
Also, she and Ashley San Giacomo, secretary of the Northern New Jersey chapter, organize the annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk, to raise awareness and funds. The event takes place this year on Oct. 23 in the Otto C. Pehle Area of the Saddle River County Park in Saddle Brook .
Morolla’s goal is to raise awareness about risk factors and warning signs. She also wants to stop people from taking their own lives by getting them to talk about what bothers them.
“People are afraid to talk about suicide. The word itself is numbing,” Morolla said. “No one wants to discuss it. No one wants to hear about it.”
Nevertheless, she said, there’s plenty to talk about.
In New Jersey, more than twice as many people die by suicide than by homicide, according to the AFSP. Suicide here is the second leading cause of death for people ages 25 to 34 and the third leading cause for people ages 15 to 24.
But every age group is affected, she said, particularly in recent years since the economy and the world at large are undergoing significant shifts.
“When I was going to school, it was drilled into us that the elderly were the at-risk population,” she said.
They still are.
But nowadays middle-aged males have the highest risk of suicide than any other age group in the nation, according to Morolla.
“We’ve had so many job losses over the years,” she said. “People built their lives around their careers. To them, losing a job is almost losing a self.”
Some middle-aged people who are employed worry they’ll be pushed out of their jobs by younger people who will work for half the price, she said.
“There’s a lot of stressors out there now,” she explained. “More and more, I’m seeing people working till they’re 72 or 75 years old. They’re supposed to be enjoying life and relaxing. Instead, they’re worrying about how they’re going to support themselves.”
Meanwhile, she said, technology brings instant gratification to young people who sometimes struggle with the idea of waiting for things. Some also are missing genuine social connections.
“You can have 10,000 friends on Facebook ,” Morolla said, “and not know a single soul.”
Add to that mix the ambient violence of the day— bombings and terrorist attacks—and life can become too overwhelming.
“All these things are huge risks for suicide,” Morolla said. “The problem is people are not talking about having any of these thoughts.”
AFSP has an interactive and anonymous screening program that it can distribute via email to individuals in organizations that book one of its presentations, she added. People whose answers indicate they are at risk for harming themselves are immediately linked to a counselor.
“We try to get sponsors for the screenings,” Morolla said, “because we believe so greatly it’s a help.”
Morolla is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK.
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