Sam Altman said “Young people willing to push super hard to make something happen are among the most powerful forces in the world.” YouthLine, a 24 hour helpline, uses the power of teenagers for a free teen-to-teen crisis support helpline. This service is provided by Lines For Life, a non-profit dedicated to preventing substance abuse and suicide in Portland, Oregon. “YouthLine operates a national helpline that provides crisis support and referrals via call, text, and chat. YouthLine is answered by teen volunteers daily from 4pm-10pm PST (and by adults at all other times). Translation services are available upon request.” A dedicated group of diverse caring teenagers provide comfort and support for other teens in crisis. I had the honor to talk with Craig Leets, YouthLine Deputy Director and Sonya Stone, Assistant Director of Education and Outreach about the incredible YouthLine.
“I was a troubled teen and I was constantly looking for someone to throw me a rope. These ropes are connections. They allow us to see that life exists beyond the little worlds we are currently part of.” Lauren Oliver
YouthLine is a helpline for teenagers by teenagers. Youth from the ages of 15 years to 24 years old can apply to become a peer-to-peer crisis and support volunteer. A potential YouthLine volunteer needs to complete an application and go through an interview. Teens selected to be “ropes” for the young people who call the YouthLine are committing to 65 hours of training which includes research based tailored content, role plays, shadow shifts, and a one year commitment of a weekly four hour shift. Master level clinicians who oversee the YouthLine want the teenagers to feel confident in their skills they are using to talk, chat, text, or email with another teenager reaching out for support and guidance. YouthLine is based out of Oregon, providing crisis support over the United States of America for teenagers who call the YouthLine.
“Here are things we don’t do: we won’t judge, we won’t tell you what to do, and we won’t tell you that your feelings are dumb or unreasonable–because they aren’t. YouthLine’s teen volunteers are here to listen to you, to help you know that your feelings matter, and to help you feel better.” YouthLine
The rate of deescalation for YouthLine is 90%. While they are mandated reporters who will contact outside support if necessary, YouthLine is a confidential helpline. The teenage first responders answering crisis calls are sidekicks to the superhero brave teenagers calling into YouthLine for support. All calls begin with the power of listening to the youth calling in. If needed, the teens calling the YouthLine are provided with information and support to help them make the best decisions for themselves. All calls, texts, chats, and emails YouthLine teens are responding to are monitored by Masters Level Mental Health clinicians. Check ins and check outs are ongoing for YouthLine volunteers in addition to coaching conversations that provide feedback and support. Continuing education is provided on a monthly basis. The space where YouthLine volunteers is cozy and comfortable. Craig shared during shifts it is commonplace for YouthLine volunteers to be checking in on each other and asking their peers for input on calls. These dedicated youth first responders are invested in providing the highest level of support for the teens calling the crisis line while providing a supportive net for each other.
“The sky is full of stars and there’s room for all of them to shine.” Unknown
YouthLine is honored to be one of the many organizations nationally who support youth in crisis. In the past eight to nine years YouthLine has seen much growth. They also have a Youth Development and Workforce Development program that prepares the volunteers for being first responders on the helpline and provides continuing mentorship, education, and training during their volunteer experience. The Education and Outreach program at YouthLine provides classroom peer to peer lessons that focus on mental health, encourage seeking help seeking behaviors, identifying a trusted adult, and identifying healthy self-care strategies. YouthLine participates in tabling events in the community along with providing a positive social media presence. The youth first responders who answer calls at YouthLine are a diverse group of individuals serving youth in crisis from all over the United States.
“We believe that teens are resilient, teens can gain coping skills to positively guide their lives, and negative perceptions around mental health and seeking help can be turned around.” YouthLine
A steady group of approximately 150 youth provide volunteer services to YouthLine on a yearly basis. Many of the volunteers go off to college and get mental health degrees. Some of the volunteers going to college continue to volunteer at YouthLine during college breaks. Youth volunteers who have volunteer experience at the YouthLine become “leads” where they lead the room of other YouthLine volunteers. Everything the YouthLine does is infused with the voices of youth who willingly share their time and input to help YouthLine provide the highest level of support to anyone calling in.
It is with honor we shine the Kindness Champion Spotlight on YouthLine, a teen-to-teen crisis and support helpline in Oregon providing support to teens in crisis all over the USA. “YouthLine would like to acknowledge that the land where our work occurs is the occupied ancestral homelands of the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Chinook, Tualatin, Kalapuya, and Molalla tribes.” We thank you for being you and bringing your awesome to the world.
For more information on YouthLine here is their information:
Instagram: @theyouthline https://www.instagram.com/theyouthline/
Facebook: @YouthLine https://www.facebook.com/theyouthline/