Now more than ever before, the world is witnessing an epidemic of mental health disorders among teens. Approximately 20 percent of young people suffer from some sort of mental illness, which can alter numerous aspects in someone’s life and wellbeing depending on the severity. Life’s rapid pace can be stressful, overwhelming and chaotic without room to simply talk about your day. And with the stigma around asking for help, it can be difficult to reach out without feeling judged. That’s why YouthLine (a teen-to-teen crisis line) is so groundbreaking for our generation. Teens can reach out for support on a variety of topics and are able to talk with a trained peer crisis intervention specialist who can listen, relate and empathize while discussing healthy coping skills and encouraging help-seeking behavior.
Senior Lily Lines became connected with YouthLine half a year ago after someone she knew completed suicide.
“I remember thinking ‘I wish I would have had the skills to realize someone I saw almost every day was suicidal,’” she explained. “By joining YouthLine, I wanted to help people who might also be having suicidal thoughts or just any crisis in general. I wanted to be there for them, and let them know someone cares about them and wants to listen.”
After 63 hours of training and shadowing, Lines was able to join the YouthLine team and bring help and hope to her peers.
“I’ve learned so much relating to mental health. For example, how to spot invitations when someone is contemplating suicide and how to support someone through their suicidal ideation. I’ve learned how to help someone who is having a panic attack or how to brainstorm ideas that will help a person who is feeling the urge to self injure stay safe. It’s definitely given me more confidence in myself because when I am on the phone or taking a text I have to trust in myself and the skills I’ve obtained to make sure the person I am speaking with feels supported and heard. YouthLine has given me the opportunity to interact with amazing and courageous individuals who come from all different walks of life,” she said.
Volunteering for YouthLine provides a unique opportunity for teens to learn more about effective communication skills, empathy, compassion and how to be a helpful resource.
“Helping people through some of their darkest moments has been one of the best parts of being involved. But also the friends I’ve made on shift has definitely been one of the best parts as well. YouthLiners are a cool group of people who often have stories of their own relating to mental health, which is really inspiring,” Lines said.
Because YouthLine has grown so much over the years and they receive numerous contacts each day, Lines encourages everyone (as long as you’re at least 15 years old) to think about recruitment.
“It is a really rewarding experience, you make a lot of friends, and there’s always free snacks and coffee on shift!”
YouthLine is available 24/7, where teens answer calls from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and an adult at all other times. The contact stays completely anonymous, even if YouthLine asks for a name it isn’t mandatory to list one. If a teen YouthLine volunteer receives a call, chat or text from someone from their school, they pass it on to someone else to help maintain the confidentiality of the interaction.
“Please feel free to reach out!” Lines said. “Our contacts have ranged from things like academic stress and breakups, to self harm, abuse and suicide. No crisis is too small or too big for YouthLine.”