The teenage years can be a confusing and overwhelming time for many young people, but all too often, it’s hard for teens to find someone they can really talk to, without judgement, about the issues they’re dealing with. This is why Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters partnered with the crisis hotline Teen Line to create Teen Talk, a new app that allows struggling teens to get support and encouragement from trained peer mentors. Read on to learn more about Teen Talk and the inspiring stories of the partners behind it.
What is Teen Talk?
A valuable new mental health resource for teens, Teen Talk is an easy-to-use, free app specially designed for the iPhone: the app was inspired by research showing that teens typically seek help from their peers rather than from adults, and that they prefer to communicate electronically when possible. Using the app, young people can publish anonymous posts on whatever issues they may be dealing with and receive empathetic, non-judgmental support from other teens who have gone through specialized training. Taking advantage of today’s technology, Teen Talk provides a safe space for youth to vent, share problems, and get support from their peers; in the process, the app aims not only to help individual teens, but also to build a strong community of empathetic teens who act as ambassadors for positive social, mental, and emotional health.
Who provides advice on Teen Talk?
Teen Talk is all about teens helping teens. The app is staffed by high school students who are at least 14 years old: these dedicated volunteers go through an extensive 60-hour training process to develop the essential tools they need to listen and provide social and emotional support to their peers. After their training, teens can sign up for shifts during which they respond to posts on the Teen Talk app at home, from their own devices. These inspiring young people volunteer for Teen Talk for all kinds of reasons—because they’re committed to helping others and making a difference in the lives of their peers; to create strong and lasting friendships with other volunteers; to know that they are not alone with the issues that they themselves are dealing with; and to gain important knowledge and experience in a positive, team-oriented environment.
What kinds of issues can teens discuss on Teen Talk?
One of the most important things that teens need to know about using Teen Talk is that no issue is too small, too big, or too shocking to share with Teen Talk volunteers. Subjects that Teen Talk staff are ready to talk about include difficulties in school or problems with academic performance; struggles with anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts; addiction or substance abuse issues; sexual assault; feelings of social isolation; questions around gender and sexuality; pregnancy; family or relationship issues; and child abuse. No teen who uses Teen Talk will ever be judged based on how they’re feeling, what they’ve done, or what has happened to them.
Who are the partners behind Teen Talk?
Teen Talk is a partnership between Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters and the youth crisis hotline Teen Line. Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles works to help and empower youth to achieve their full potential through community-based mentoring initiatives and other innovative, impactful programs that focus on positive development and long-lasting relationships. The organization is best known for its one-to-one adult/child mentoring programs, but its many other offerings include recreational, cultural, and educational activities.
Teen Line is a unique nonprofit organization that is dedicated to helping struggling teenagers address their challenges. Based at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Teen Line is a crisis hotline that is open for free and anonymous calls between the hours of 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm PST. Calls to the hotline are answered by Teen Line volunteers: trained teenagers who are ready to listen to a caller’s feelings, help clarify concerns, identify available options and next steps, and support positive decision-making. (The training that volunteers with the Teen Talk app receive is an adapted version of the Teen Line training.)
Teen Line was established in 1980 by a group of mental health professionals. Drawing on their experiences working with teenagers, this group realized that adolescent mental health required a more inclusive approach than the methods in use at the time. After an extensive research and consultation process, the group developed the format for Teen Line. Like the Teen Talk app, Teen Line is based on the premise that teenagers often seek help from their peers when they have a problem rather than confiding in their parents or other adults, and that anonymity helps teens discuss and get support for issues that they might feel nervous about sharing with their friends. Today, more than 17,000 young people call Teen Line every year, more than 40,000 attend outreach events that Teen Line organizes at schools and community groups, and nearly 1.3 million users from all over the world visit the Teen Line website.