Teens Helping Teens
May 11, 2019 Cedars-Sinai Staff
Being a teenager has always been hard and the rise of social media has made it harder.
Suicide rates in kids and young adults aged 15-19 have risen significantly. Between 2007 and 2015, the suicide rate doubled for girls and increased 31% for boys.
In 2018, Teen Line answered more than 20,000 calls, texts, and emails from around the world.
Many teens push their parents away and don't always feel comfortable talking to teachers about their problems. So where can they turn if they feel lost, hopeless, confused, or frustrated?
Since 1980, teens have been counting on Teen Line, an anonymous hotline dedicated to helping adolescents through some of their toughest years.
Unlike other mental health hotlines, Teen Line is specifically for teens and provides peer-to-peer help. Under the supervision of mental health professionals, teen volunteers listen and provide helpful resources to other kids in need.
"We provide an anonymous, safe place for kids to talk about whatever they're embarrassed about or ashamed of—without any judgment or repercussions," says Michelle Carlson, Teen Line executive director.
Using office space at Cedars-Sinai, Teen Line operates nightly from 6-10 pm PT. In 2018, they answered more than 20,000 calls, texts, and emails from around the world.
The teen listeners are trained to deal with a variety of issues. Calls range from mental health crises like suicidal thoughts to common problems like a fight with friends.
The most common concerns are relationship troubles, stress, and anxiety.
"Our volunteers go through a rigorous 65-hour training to learn suicide risk assessment in addition to active listening," says Michelle.
"The commitment is intense, so these kids are really motivated to be here."
When a teen calls or messages the hotline, volunteers help them work through the issues. They provide tools and coping skills the callers can apply at home. They also suggest local resources and help callers figure out who in their lives they can talk to.
In addition to providing hotline services, Teen Line hosts community events and provides resources for parents who want to better understand their teens.
In recent years, Michelle says Teen Line has been hearing from younger callers—some as young as 10. But the good news is they're seeking help, she says.
"Our work is about early intervention. We want kids to reach out for help early so we can help build a positive experience and reduce stigma."