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New South Jersey Suicide Prevention Program Wants To Get People Talking

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A suicide prevention program, jointly developed by a South Jersey social service organization and law enforcement, aims to get the community talking about anxiety and depression among young people, and to offer solutions.

Its development was prompted by alarm over the rise in suicide among middle schoolers.

Jewish Family and Children's Service Executive Director Marla Meyers took her concern to Cherry Hill Police Chief William Monaghan.

Together, they developed "This Life Counts," a fast-paced program that combines a panel made up of social workers, child psychiatrists, law enforcement, a young adult who attempted suicide, with presentations, conversation, and games.

"The main message being that we want families to talk to each other," said Meyers. "We want parents to ask more questions, to say to kids, 'Tell me more.'"

And to get kids to identify the adults they can talk to about their depression or anxiety.

"And also, what would they do if a friend came to them and said, 'I'm thinking about committing suicide.' What would the teen say to the friend? We advise them about that," Meyers said.

She says depression and anxiety are not signs of weakness.

"It's a brain disease, and there's a lot of ways to fix it. It's okay to ask for help, just the same as you would if you broke a knee," said Meyers.

Chief Monaghan says young people who are having suicidal thoughts, and those who love them, can and should reach out, although who they're encouraged to call might surprise you.

"Police are one of the first resources they should call if they know someone who is in crisis, or if they're in crisis themselves," he said, "We have the training through both the police academy, as well as in-service trainings that we send our officers to, to deal with mental health calls and to assist people in getting the help that they need."

Monaghan says the TLC program is a model of community policing.

"We're here to provide a service to the community, and we're here to protect people. We want to protect their lives, not just their property," he said.

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