For the fourth year, the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide is sponsoring an annual public service announcement competition open to all high school students in New Jersey. The group hopes the event will get a message across from peer to peer: When a friend is in crisis, you can help.

According to Susan Tellone, SPTS clinical director, children know the signs of their friends' suicidal behavior long before adults do. Teen suicide is the second-leading cause of death among youth, Tellone said.

So if those teens themselves are made more visible, they may convince others not to keep the dark secrets of themselves or their classmates.

"Our teens are probably the most underutilized resource we have in suicide prevention because what we know for sure is that kids know when their friends are in trouble," Tellone said.

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The contest, which is aided by 2nd Floor Youth Helpline and the Traumatic Loss Coalitions for Youth, is open through Dec. 18, with a public voting period extending into January and winners announced in February.

Contestants can submit either a video or poster PSA. The first-place video winner receives a $250 Amazon gift card ($100 for the runner-up), and the poster winner gets a $150 gift card ($75 for the runner-up).

Tellone said the competition has steadily gained in popularity over four years, leading to an increase in membership in the SPTS Monmouth and Ocean Youth Council. She said teenagers have expressed interest in launching their own endeavors outside of making a video or poster, like various fundraising ideas or National Honor Society service projects.

Most of all, she said, these teens are realizing that now is the time to have the conversation about suicide in their ranks.

"No one is alone," Tellone said. "You can pick up that phone at any point in time, you can text, and someone will be there."

The anonymous National Suicide Prevention lifeline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and you can go to sptsusa.org for rules and the application for the PSA Contest.

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