Mikaela Rabizadeh media editor
Rinesa Kabashi staff writer
Alya Mehrtash staff writer
One in five teenagers suffers from a mental illness, according to Teen Mental Health. By volunteering at Teen Line, some Beverly students have worked to help fellow teens who might be going through tough times or who might be dealing with mental health issues.
Teen Line is a confidential hotline for teenagers which operates every evening from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The hotline receives over 17,000 calls, texts and emails each year, along with over a million website visitors around the world.
Students have been involved with Teen Line’s Teen Suicide Prevention Training program since 1996. The volunteers who answer the calls, emails and texts are students who have received specialized training. Their training consists of learning about different issues that can affect teens. Topics discussed include crisis intervention, family life, cultural diversity, values, sexuality and gender identity, child abuse, as well as self-destructive and life-threatening behaviors.
“Teen Line is set-up specifically for teens and is a great resource for teens in a crisis or simply having a bad day,” freshman trainee Tess Cuen said. “There is no other organization that puts teens in touch with other teens right at the moment they need someone to talk to.”
Senior Kimia Azad has been a volunteer for Teen Line since she was a freshman. Being a part of the program for four years has taught Azad how to not only help callers deal with their emotions, but to also cope with her own emotions.
“Volunteering at Teen Line, whether through outreaches or responding to calls and texts, has really given me perspective on how we, as teenagers, may experience similar things, but react differently,” Azad said. “Everyone copes differently, everyone takes care of themselves differently, everyone has their own backstory—every Teen Line call…and email I have responded to has reaffirmed that. Volunteering at the hotline has taught me how to take this lesson and apply it to real life.”
Though Teen Line volunteers often find their work to be rewarding, senior Alexa Khorshad finds that the job can inevitably become difficult at times.
“It’s hard speaking to teens that do not seek help. They are clearly closed off,” Khorshad said. “Even though they are calling in because that means they do have a small part of them that wants to be heard, they really try to refuse all the help you try to give them.”
When faced with challenges like this, volunteers develop skills that they can take away and apply to their outside life such as active listening, acknowledging others feelings and tackling problems. Cuen found active listening to be the most useful skill that she can take through her life.
“Active listening is being present and engaged in the conversation, and letting the person express whatever is on their mind. Being a good listener is such an important skill to have and Teen Line training has helped me develop that important skill,” Cuen said.
As volunteers take on more calls, they start to develop a relationship with anonymous callers and start to see how much they have grown since their first call.
“Sometimes after a really long and heavy call, I ask my caller how they are feeling compared to when they first called in. To hear that they are feeling better, or more prepared to tackle an issue, is so rewarding,” Azad said. “ Knowing that I am helping someone out, even just through listening, is so rewarding. Those moments are definitely my favorite part about working with Teen Line.”
Some volunteers recognize that, while talking to adults can be helpful, it may elicit feelings of discomfort. Because of this, Cuen feels that Teen Line’s method of teen listeners can be more effective in helping other teens.
“Teen Line intrigued me because the concept of teens helping teens sounded amazing,” Cuen said. “Teens often just need someone to listen to them and to acknowledge what they’re going through. Since Teen Line is anonymous, teens calling in are free to talk [about] anything. Teens might feel uncomfortable talking to an adult and Teen Line is a great alternative.”