Teen in crisis? Teen Lifeline launches text message support service

Calls to hotline up 14% between 2014-2015

PHOENIX - Teens in crisis, resorting to drastic, sometimes even deadly measures to cope with their pain.

Teen Lifeline was one of several agencies to step forward after last month’s apparent murder-suicide at Independence High School.

I volunteered with the hotline while in high school and recently went back to see how peer counselors are dealing with more calls than ever before.

“Just about every issue that a teenager has or is going through, we hear about it on the hotline,” said Tristan, who, like other peer counselors, goes by his first name to maintain privacy. From 3 - 9 p.m. every single day, peer counselors like Tristan are ready to listen.

“Not only is it my job to listen and support them in what's going on, but also help them develop those skills to make them a better problem solver,” he said.

The need is growing. In 2015 the hotline received almost 16,000 calls from troubled youth across the state.  That is 14 percent more than 2014.

It's a major concern, since suicide is the second leading cause of death for Arizona teens.

“We want to reach teens before they get to the place that they're thinking about suicide,” said Teen Lifeline’s Executive Director Michelle Moorhead. 

Moorhead says calls related to self-injury and bullying are on the rise, and social media brings its own set of new challenges.

“We see younger teens calling in, with problems that maybe 10 years ago it was something faced by older teens,” she said.

As needs and issues continue to evolve, Teen Lifeline has had to evolve right along with them. In fact, the hotline just rolled out a new service where help is literally a text away.

“We’re always here for them and they really, in that sense, are never alone,” said Tristan.

It’s a promise that saves lives.  Just recently a suicide attempt was stopped in progress thanks to a peer counselor connection that began with a text.

“It's not so much how sad it is, but how thankful that I am that we are still here and we're able to provide that connection of hope for them,” Moorhead said.

If you're feeling down or need someone to talk to, contact the Teen Lifeline.

PHONE NUMBER: 602-248-8336 (TEEN) or 800-248-8336 (TEEN).

You can also text that number. Anyone can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Peer counselors are available between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Visit www.teenlifeline.org for information and tips on mental health and depression or to learn how to volunteer.

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