Jersey Magazine with Jim Monaghan

Jersey Magazine with Jim Monaghan

Jersey Magazine with Jim Monaghan

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a new campaign called Talk Away the Dark.

Jim Monaghan’s guest this morning here on Jersey Magazine is Vic Armstrong, Vice President of Health Equity at the American Foundation for Suicide

Talk Away the Dark

JIM MONAGHAN – How common is suicide these days? I know the numbers have gone up a little bit, but how common is it?

VIC ARMSTRONG – Yeah, 2022 we saw about 50,000 lives lost in suicide. We know even one is way too many, but we did see about 3% increase from 2021 to 2022.

So we know that suicide is a public health issue, is one that impacts all of us, but it’s also one that we believe is preventable and that we believe that the way that we help to prevent suicides is by raising awareness and by teaching people the risk and warning signs.

JM – Tell me about the Talk Away the Dark program.

VA – Talk Away the Dark is a program that depicts a conversation with someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, but they’re not openly talking about it.

And it really demonstrates how you can have a caring conversation with that person and then connect them to help.

We also have in that same space, along with our Talk Away the Dark campaign, we have our Real Convo Guide and the Real Convo Guide gives us step-by-step instructions tools for starting and continuing a conversation about mental health and suicide awareness.

And we’ve even upgraded our Convo Guide so that now we include resources on how you talk to someone if they are hesitant about seeking help.

So if you have a conversation with someone and you get pushed back as you very likely make, when they say that I don’t want to go to therapy, I don’t want to be hospitalized, I don’t want to be put on medication, how do you have conversations with people to ease their fears and encourage them to seek help?

So you can find all of that on our website at

JM _ In addition to what you just mentioned about, you know, I don’t want to go to therapy or what have you, is the, no, there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m fine. I’m just down today.

VA – There are things that we encourage people to look for in terms of warning signs because oftentimes people will say and they’ll say things to deflect.

But if you see warning signs, if you see changes in their mood, changes in their behavior, changes in the way that they talk, we encourage you to be very, to very seriously very carefully, concisely and clearly ask them if they are thinking about suicide or ask them if they’re struggling.

Those warning signs, you know, if you see someone who’s talking about suicide or talking about not wanting to be here, talking about wanting to end their lives, then that is cause for you to want to reach and have those conversations with them.

Even when people are saying that I’m okay, I don’t want to have the conversation, you’re still creating that connection.

People who are experiencing suicide desperation have often lost hope. They’ve lost social connection. And so you began to create that space.

One of the things that we do encourage people though is that when people do say that they don’t want to engage in conversation, you want to respect that person’s feelings, but you also want to make sure that you leave that person safe and in good hands.

So if you continue to have concerns about that person, even when they say that they’re okay, you can encourage them to call the 988 hotline.

You may want to stay on with them while they have that conversation to talk through with someone or you may just want to say to them, well, let’s talk about what’s going on with you.

And even they say, I’m okay, I noticed that you were crying early. I noticed that you don’t come around as much as you used to. What’s going on with you?

Let’s have that conversation.

As you begin to have those conversations and listen and allow that person to talk about what’s going on with them, they may open up and begin to share about what some of the challenges are.

You may be able to get that person to seek out help, but it begins with really having open dialogue and being willing to listen to that person.

JM – I think one of the things that also may prohibit someone from opening up a little bit is, well, nobody feels the way I do. I’m the only person who’s gone through this.

And yet when you do open up a little bit and you start speaking with someone, you realize, wow, maybe this problem isn’t as bad as I thought and be, I’m not the only one.

VA – That’s part of normalizing the conversation. There are a lot of people who experience suicidal thoughts and people don’t know, don’t realize that it is much more common than we think.

A lot of people have suicidal thoughts, but most of the people that have suicidal thoughts
do not go on to die by suicide.

So having conversation with people that normalize this conversation, yes, it can help them to realize, I’m not the only one that feels this way and in having a conversation.

You also let them know you are not alone. I’m here with you.

And when you normalize a conversation by saying things to them, like, you know, I noticed what’s going on with you and I’m here for you. I want to help you. I’m validating your feelings.

That helps that person to be willing to connect, to be willing to open up.

There are a lot of people who go through this and we want them to feel like this is just like if you were experiencing a physical health issue that you can talk about it and there’s treatment available for you.

JM – How much do you think the suicide rate has been affected by COVID?

VA – Here’s what we know. We know that oftentimes, again, people who are experiencing suicidal desperation, they’ve lost hope, lost social connection.

So we know that was a challenge during the COVID pandemic, that isolation and fear during the COVID pandemic were very, very real.

But we also know that suicide is really a very complex issue. There is no one specific thing usually that leads a person to attempt suicide.

It’s a combination of a lot of very complex things, often including mental health challenges.

But while we can’t dismiss the fact that the COVID pandemic undoubtedly had an impact on the mental well-being, we don’t really know the impact on our suicide rates.

We have seen an increase in suicide rates since the pandemic. But we’ve also seen an increase in research, we see an increase in resources.

We even created more resources that allow us to get more upstream to reach people before
they reach the point of suicidality.

So while we have seen some impact from the pandemic, we’ve also seen uptick in our ability to address the challenge that people are facing.

Learning More About AFSP and Talk Away the Dark

JM – For listeners who want to learn more about the Talk Away the Dark program, where can
they go, Vic?

VA – They can go to slash Talk Away the Dark and you’ll find our Talk Away the Dark
campaign there.

You’ll also find our Real Convo guides there that will give you the step-by-step instructions of how to talk to someone.

You can also go on our website, you can find resources to connect with a local chapter.

We have chapters in all 50 states. We have chapters in Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

They’re ready and willing to engage with communities.

If you’re looking for resources to support you or someone else who may be struggling with suicide or the mental health challenges, if you’re looking for how to get involved in your community, how to support a walk, how to find a group or other suicidal or survivors, you can find all that information on our website.

So I encourage people to visit our website and again, for our Talk Away the Dark and
we’re combo guides, this slash Talk Away the Dark.

  • Rock Hunger 7 Coming To Nutley On June 8th

    Saturday, June 8th, it is Rock Hunger 7, a concert to benefit Nutley Family Service Bureau and this morning here on Jersey Magazine, we have with us Dave Popkin, the president of the Board of Trustees.


    JIM MONAGHAN – Tell us about Rock Hunger 7 for starters.

    DAVE POPKIN – Well, I was a casual donor to Nutley Family Service Bureau about eight years ago when then the executive director grabbed me by the ear and dragged me into her offices and said, Hey, who are you? How else can you help me? I need you to be involved.

    And I said, well, what do you need? And her name was Eileen Painter and she said that I need to get younger, I need more volunteers, I need more publicity. I just need more. I have more people involved in the organization, we’re growing.

    So I said, how about a rock concert? I’ll put it on for free. And she said, you’re hired.

    So we gathered three acts that first year at the old canal in Nutley and did a concert, raised a few thousand dollars and it’s continued to grow this year.

    We’re trying to raise $15,000 for the food pantry because of the increased need and it’s a great lineup and it’s a labor of love for me.

    JM – It’s kind of like the, Hey, let’s put on a show. Mom can make the costumes dad can build the stage.

    DP – Pretty much, I mean, the first band that played and they played every time since now my old band, but back then it was my only band called The Attic.

    It was my brother, my brother-in-law, his cousin, you know, like that kind of thing, my chiropractor, we just got just got together and did it. And it was so much fun and it’s, it’s become a thing in town and we get, you know, two, three hundred people and it’s, it’s a fun outdoor music festival.

    JM – That sounds like a combination of the Beach Boys and the Cowsills with, you know, the family effect going on there.  How many bands do you have lined up for this year’s event?

    DP – We have four. You would love the headliner, Mother Hubbard because they’re from the William Patterson jazz program.

    Most of them, they’re all Jersey guys. Some of them from Nutley in particular and they kind of sound like Steely Dan and they have a record coming out this year. So they’re very good.

    They played last year and then we have Sticky Wickets. They’ve been around Nutley since they graduated from Nutley High School in like 1982 or something like that. So they’re local favorites.

    The Attic I mentioned will play again. And then my, my current group, Porch Rockers, which is like pop punk and new wave like Ramones and that kind of thing will play again.

    So it’s, it’s about four and a half hours of music for 25 bucks.

    JM – Tell us more about the Nutley Family Service Bureau and some of the other things that they do, Dave.

    DP – We’ve only been around for 111 years and have had pretty similar goals and mission since then. We try to, well, we have over a thousand mental health sessions a month.

    We do a food pantry for over 300 households and over 615 individuals from Nutley but also some surrounding towns. Last month, the increase was 15% month over month in terms of the food pantry demand because of pandemic programs, sun setting and because of inflation.

    So we gave out over 1800 bags of food. So we need food and we need money to feed people. So that is, you know, a big part of what we do.

    And then once we get people into the pantry, we have case management so that we can connect them to other social services, you know, maybe reduced rent somewhere or help with their power bills or, you know, Medicare, Medicaid, things like that.

    So it’s been a vital part of our town for a long time. We have over 150 volunteers that help out in a thrift store that raises money for all of our programs. We have a little, you know, campus of a couple buildings right in the center of town near town hall and people refer to us and we just try to help as many of our neighbors as we can.

    JM – Food insecurity has been a topic here in New Jersey for a long time. And obviously it comes up, you think of it around the holidays time as we get closer to Thanksgiving, but it is an ongoing thing here in the New Jersey as well as around the country.

    And I think, you know, especially here in New Jersey, it’s, you know, Dave, you look at the area that you and I live in. And this is a very affluent part of the country and we don’t think of food insecurity hitting us.

    DP – And yet it’s in every town, no matter how wealthy it may or may not be. And what I’ve learned through this is that everybody is there for a different reason. You know, maybe their breadwinner and the family passed away or maybe they’re new to this country or maybe they’re just making minimum wage and they can’t get by.

    Maybe they’re, you know, underemployed.

    Maybe they have depression.

    Like you name it. Like there’s a million reasons why people could need help either short or long term and whatever town you live in. And we’re seeing it, you know, in Nutley, in Belleville, in Bloomfield, like all the towns around here and we’re trying to help as many of these folks as we can.

    But it’s been a real problem. And, you know, somebody that you’ve known over the years, Bill Ayers at Why Hunger, you know, Bruce Springsteen, people like that have been a real inspiration for me. And it’s become a cause that’s near and dear to my heart.

    So I put in, you know, as they say, a lot of time, talent and treasure to the organization because nobody in this country should go hungry.

    JM – We mentioned that this is Rock Hunger 7, the concert that’s coming up in Nutley on Saturday, June 8th. If somebody wanted to do a Rock Hunger show in their own town, how would they go about doing that, Dave?

    DP – They would call me. They would go to to get all the information. I’ll basically give anybody the template that wants to do it.

    We have a small fee that covers the designers of like posters and stuff like that because we have a template for Rock Hunger that we can hand to anybody’s food pantry, food bank, anything like that where you’re raising money for that cause.

    I will give my time to it and help you book the bands, book the venue, and try to expand this because it’s a concept that works. We generally raise over $10,000 on this event.

    And for a food pantry, that’s a lot of money. You know, it can buy a lot of dry goods or produce, things like that. So it’s proof of concept, right? It’s worked for us now for seven years and I would love to expand it into some other towns in the area.

    JM – On a side note, Dave Popkin and I have known each other what it’s 25 years now, right? I think that’s about right. We worked together with the Newark Bears in Newark and the Atlantic League. They were, at least in the Atlantic League at that time before eventually folding.

    And if you’re watching on video, you can see all of the sports memorabilia and the baseballs in Dave’s background, you have a wide variety of sports broadcasting background in addition to the work that you and I did with the Newark Bears. You are, I think I’ve done eight different sports. Is that correct?

    DP – I think over a dozen at this point because when they ask, I just say yes, because at this point, at our age, it’s a mental challenge for me. I say, okay, bowling? Yes, I’ll do it. Like swimming and diving. I did that for NJIT in the last year. So I know nothing about swimming and diving. I just kind of called it like a horse race. It was play-by-play and I just went for it.

    So it’s like a deep dive, no pun intended on something like that to learn as much as you can about the terminology and the participants. But yeah, baseball, basketball, football, those are soccer, some of my main sports, but I’ve done lacrosse and all kinds of wacky stuff.

    My first gig ever was doing sidelines on a lifeguard tournament in Sea Girt, New Jersey.

    JM – Easiest sport for you to call. What would it be?

    DP – Oh, God. I think basketball at this point because it’s right in front of you and I do so many of those games now. I’ve kind of turned the corner like baseball, my first love.

    I mean, you and I called a lot of games together and baseball was my first love. It’s in my bones. I can literally sit down and score a game and call a game and not even think about it. It’s like one of those 10,000 hours, Malcolm Gladwell things.

    But basketball, I think, is easiest for me now because I’m in such a groove. This year I did 54 games. I’m very grateful that people want to hire me for that stuff, including Seton Hall.

    JM – Hardest sport for you to call.

    DP – Hockey. I’ve only done one hockey game. It was on TV. I can never imagine doing hockey on the radio. Kenny Albert, who I’m friendly with, says that’s the easiest for him because you just, you don’t have time to do anything else except call where the puck is.

    JM – Kenny is actually the reason I asked you the question because he told me the same thing. It was hockey. He’d grown up watching hockey and for him, it’s the easiest. And I think it would be the hardest. I’ve never called it, but with the line changes and everything, I can’t imagine trying to keep track of all of that.

    DP – It’s the hardest. The only thing that was comparable that I think was just as hard or harder was indoor lacrosse because it moves fast like hockey. But it’s kind of hard to see the players’ numbers.

    They’re all hammering on each other and it’s very physical. And I did that one on the radio one time with Tina Servacio many years ago. And it was hard.

    JM – You mentioned college basketball, Seton Hall. You broadcast their games for a number of years. Had a marvelous run, ultimately winning the NIT. What was that like?

    DP – It was my favorite moment broadcasting, certainly broadcasting sports. The NIT final at Hinkle Field House against Indiana State. So it was essentially a home game for them. It was 99% Columbia Blue for Indiana State, the Sycamores, and Seton Hall in a very close game in the last minute.

    And Gary Cohen, who I do the games with, the Mets announcer, was away doing the Mets. So I got to do play-by-play of the semis and the finals out at Hinkle. And it was electric. It was really a high point for me. And I was happy for those guys because they got snubbed.

    They were supposed to make the NCAA tournament. There were five bid stealers on that final weekend that won their conference tournaments that weren’t supposed to. So Seton Hall got left out along with St. John’s and Providence and some other big East teams.

    And they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. And once they got through that first game against St. Joseph’s, they just cruised all the way to the final and then won a close game. So I was really excited.

    And then all the alums and the players and everybody were celebrating afterwards. So it was fun to be out there with them.

    JM – One more time for WDA and WMTR listeners who want to learn more about the rock hunger concert seven that’s coming to Nutley on June 8th, Saturday, June 8th. Where can they go, Dave?

    DP – They can go to There are sponsorships and tickets available there. The tickets are only $25. Goes right to the pantry to a great cause. 

  • Rock N Ruff


    WDHA’s Rock N’ Ruff is back this week with a great pup! Sweet Kona- A 2-3 year-old female pup that is a long-term resident of The Randolph Regional Animal Shelter – Randolph Regional Animal Shelter Website


    Kona is a 2-3 year old female terrier mix, who is the life of the party! The Randolph Regional Animal Shelter took in Kona after being found as a stray and ending up in another shelter and is a fun, energetic girl. In fact, Kona has been overlooked at the shelter because she is so happy and exuberant, her energy may scare some people off- why? It shouldn’t! Kona is happy, friendly, loves riding in the car, playing with her ball and toys, swimming, and running, basically Kona likes doing everything!  She would really like to do everything in her forever home, with her very own family.

     Rock N' Ruff with Kona

    Kona Loves Her Ball

    Kona also enjoys the company of other dogs and the shelter feels she would be fine with Cats. Poor Kona, is coming up on being in the shelter for a year. Making her a long-term shelter resident, so we are hoping her Rock N’ Ruff exposure will get her noticed and she will have some visitors! The Randolph Regional Animal Shelter also has a fantastic “Foster To Adopt” program, which helps dogs and humans find their perfect match. I actually feature them in my- ‘5 Important Tips When Adopting A New Pet” story- 5 Important Tips Before Adopting A New Pet.



    Kona is super active!



    Kona is such a pretty pup too

    More Rock N’ Ruff

    Check out the WDHA Rock N’ Ruff Page for all of our adoptable- WDHA’s Rock N’ Ruff

    My TC Rock N’ Ruff Roundtable Page- TC’s Rock N’ Ruff Roundtable

    And a Fun Fiesta Event To Support Local Adoptions- Furry Friends Fiesta

    And of course a rocking puppy playlist! A Doggie Dozen Rock Tunes 

    Opt To Adopt and here’s to helping Kona find her forever family!

  • Coach Sheets' Ride In

    Jeremy Sheetinger is the head baseball coach at Georgia Gwinnett College where he led the Grizz Gang to the 2021 NAIA National Championship.

    These quick hits may, on the surface, be geared toward his fellow baseball coaches, but his motivational message can easily be applied to the classroom, workplace, and your personal relationships.

    This morning, Coach Sheets talks about getting stronger from some of the negative moments we encounter.

  • Local Look

    Looking for something fun to do in the area? Chris Swendeman has you covered with this week’s Local Look.

    There are always so many fun events happening in our local communities.  Check out what’s in store for this week in New Jersey.

    • Celebrate Mom in style at Monmouth Park Racetrack where all day it’s free admission for the ladies.  There’s also a Mother’s Day brunch in the dining club. There will also be plenty of other free activities from noon to 4 PM. Visit for further details.
    • You can drop by Montclair and give Mom the gift of music for their special Mother’s Day concert.  The concert takes place at the Van Vleck House where the New Jersey Symphony Chamber Players perform a program of brass quintet favorites in honor of Mother’s Day.  Admission is free but there is a suggested donation of $10.
    • And you can take Mom on a fun shopping adventure at the Jersey Shore for the 2024 Asbury Park Spring Bazaar. The events are at the Grand Arcade of Convention Hall and the Asbury Hotel. There will be shopping, arts and crafts, Mother’s Day photo stations, music and entertainment and so much more. The events take place from noon to 5 PM.  Visit for further info.


    And that’s your Local Look for this week on The Jersey Magazine.  If you’d like your event to be featured on The Local Look, you can email us at [email protected].  See you next week on 105.5 WDHA.

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