The three small words appeared on the screen. Jesus, a Peer Counselor for two years, immediately texted back a message and waited.
It was the first text message that Teen Lifeline would receive, marking a new era for our organization.
Because of the generosity of YOU and the community, Teen Lifeline was able to soft launch our new text messaging service, the first new program in 20 years, on December 14th, 2015. It’s a program that gives us a chance to really connect with teens on their level.
Ted, another Peer Counselor that helped clinical staff test the new service, said, “In many ways, texting for a teen is less intimidating than talking on the phone. We hope that using texting will appeal to a wider range of teenagers who might really need our service. They can text with a Peer Counselor just like they would a friend, getting the same care that they would if they had called.”
Jesus added, “It’s a pretty easy transition for the Peer Counselors, too. We’re using the same exact skills we learned for the hotline.”
Jesus would go on to have a back and forth conversation with that very first texter over several hours. They were feeling suicidal, but Jesus and Teen Lifeline were able to provide them with the resources and hope needed.
Since then, each new day has seen a gradual influx in texts.
“I think there are probably many teenagers out in the community who would really benefit from our services,” Ted explained, “but they just aren’t yet comfortable calling the hotline. This is a great way to get them to test us out.”
Ted said that while the hotline is 24/7, texting will only be available between 3pm and 9pm every day. During that time, any teen in Arizona can text the hotline number (602-248-TEEN) and have another teen answer. As always, all messages will be monitored by one of our Master’s Level Clinicians.
Clinical Director, Nikki Kontz, further said, “We definitely want to encourage the teens that text to eventually call the hotline because things can be better assessed and done faster. But, including text messaging will allow us to reach those teens that are scared or hesitant to call a crisis line.”
Ted believes the new texting service will have a huge impact on the community. “I think that expanding our services to include texting is an amazing tool to aid in prevention… and [because of it] we will continue to save lives and prevent more teen suicides.”