A Connection of Hope: A Peer Counselor’s Story

“He was in desperate need of direct medical attention,” Peer Counselor Jackman recalled about one of his most memorable calls.

Peer Counselor Jackman answers a crisis call.
Peer Counselor Jackman answers a crisis call.

Jackman received the Peer of the Year award this year at the Connections of Hope gala that took place on Oct. 9. The award recognizes one outstanding Peer Counselor that exemplifies what Teen Lifeline is all about. Last year Jackman volunteered over 1,600 hours, providing a connection of hope to approximately 130 callers.

“At the end of the call,” Jackman continued, “I had encouraged him to call back and let us know how he was feeling. A week went by with no word. Then, one day he finally called and thanked me. He said it was such a tremendous help for himself as well as his family.”

In our almost 30 year history, Peer Counselors like Jackman have been a connection of hope for over 158,000 troubled youth on the hotline. Teen Lifeline doesn’t just help its callers though, it helps the Peer Counselors, too.

“Peers and staff at Teen Lifeline are so dedicated to making sure that everyone that volunteers here is taken care of and loved on an immeasurable scale,” Jackman said. “Teen Lifeline has impacted my life by helping me to overcome the problems that I faced in my personal life like: depression, self-harm, low self-esteem, and family issues.”

Peer Counselors Kassie, Tristan, Clinical Director Nikki Koontz, Jackman, Sydney, and Prevention Specialist Alicia Celis
Peer Counselors Kassie, Tristan, Clinical Director Nikki Kontz, Jackman, Sydney, and Prevention Specialist Alicia Celis

It takes a minimum of 72 hours to train a Peer Counselor. It is an immense commitment that these teens undertake. They not only take the time to learn from Master’s level clinicians, but they give up their evenings and weekends to help teens in crisis. “Hope, is the driving force for everything we do,” Jackman explains. “I smile whenever I think about that memorable call because I know that I truly helped someone overcome an obstacle in their life.”

Shifting his focus, Jackman continued, “There is a strong chance that your children, or the children of someone else you know will have suicidal thoughts before they graduate high school. Donate or support Teen Lifeline, not for your benefit, but for the benefit of them and their peers.”

You can be a connection of hope in a variety of ways. Your impact can be felt by simply sharing our information on Facebook, Twitter or any social media channel. You can hold a third party fundraiser or pass out materials in your school, work or social meeting. Monetary donations help keep our doors open, but spreading awareness of our support system guarantees one more teen doesn’t have to feel helpless or hopeless.

Jackman speaking at the Connections of Hope event.
Jackman speaking at the Connections of Hope event.

“I want everyone to know they are not alone. On the other end of the line is someone that truly cares about your well-being and wants you to be happy,” Jackman adds, “No matter who answers the phone, they will not judge you or your problems. Peer Counselors are here to help and would be more than happy to talk about whatever you need to talk about.”

If you or someone you know is struggling, please call us at 
602-248-TEEN or 800-248-TEEN.

Connections of Hope 2015: A Recap

Weren’t able to attend COH this year? No worries, we got you covered!

Chaired by Mandy Purcell, the gala event proved to be our biggest yet with record-breaking attendance and a record-breaking OVER HALF A MILLION dollars raised in support of area youth!

Executive Director Michelle Moorhead, Jeff Fields, Mandy Purcell
Executive Director Michelle Moorhead, Board of Director’s Secretary Jeff Fields, Event Chair Mandy Purcell (© Alyssa Campbell Photography)

Taking place at the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, the event opened with a silent auction as attendees began arriving and mingling.

In the reception hall, ABC15’s very own Katie Raml welcomed everyone as our “Mistress of Ceremonies” for the evening!

Once food was served, Lelea & 3Nations accompanied the courses with some sweet musical sounds. Fun Fact: The band was formed at last year’s Connections of Hope event and we were absolutely delighted to have them back again this year!

Lelea & 3Nations perform during dinner.
Lelea & 3Nations perform during dinner. (© Alyssa Campbell Photography)

A live auction also took place with attendee’s bidding on trips to Italy, Utah, and opportunities to eat with Diamondback’s great Luis Gonzalez! A special thanks to “auctiontainer”, Letitia Frye, who MC’ed the auction.

The night also featured personal stories from Peer Counselors. Then, Executive Director Michelle Moorhead presented the Peer of the Year award to Jackman Rice (above story).

Donald Tapia receives the Alfredo J. Molina Community Lifeline Award.
Donald Tapia receives the Alfredo J. Molina Community Lifeline Award. (© Alyssa Campbell Photography)

The culmination of the night was the presentation of the Alfredo J. Molina Community Lifeline Award. Named after it’s inaugural recipient, the award is given to those who provide hope in the community through their philanthropic endeavors.

This year’s award was bestowed to Donald Tapia for his service to children & youth, the disadvantaged, animal welfare, first responders, and veterans.
The night ended with plenty of dancing as Nate Nathan & the MacDaddy O’s played us out!
TLL Connections of Hope 15
Nate Nathan & The MacDaddy O’s (© Alyssa Campbell Photography)

We thank EVERYONE who helped make this night a success! That includes our event advisors: Shannon Barthelemy, Stacey Caron, Jennifer Collins, Renee Dee, Amanda Eisenfeld, and Alfredo J. Molina. Plus, thank you to our event coordinator, Dottie Kobik, for making the night flow seamlessly. A big thanks to our Advisory Council memberDave Alexander for his support and leadership! And THANK YOU to all the volunteers who helped us spread HOPE to the community!

If you attended, we thank you for sharing the evening with us. If you weren’t able to attend, you can STILL be a connection of hope for youth in crisis by heading over to our website and learning more about where your dollars go.

A Father’s Plea

By Steele Campbell

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On February 2, 1995 at 7:56 AM our family’s life changed. Our son, Brandon Steele Campbell, was born.

Then on January 2, 2012 at 4:51 PM our family’s lives changed for a second time, taking a turn down a very dark path that seemingly knows no end.  It was the day my wife and I came home to discover Brandon had taken his own life.

It was like at that moment I was in a dream state. My wife screaming, “NO GOD, PLEASE NOT THIS BRANDON!” This could not be happening to us. As we waited for the police and ambulance to arrive, only one word kept going through my head, “Why?”

Brandon was caring, bright, and witty; he had a great future ahead of him.  I could see him as an economist, a teacher, or maybe an actor. He was not into drugs, booze, or anything like that.  He was an accomplished scuba diver with over 50 dives. When he put his mind to it he could focus and accomplish anything he desired. We were a family that did many wonderful things together and determined to live our lives to the fullest extent together.

But he did struggle. He struggled with Asperger Syndrome and making friends. We know now that is what he desired most.

I do not write this for sympathy. We’ve had massive amounts of that over the past 3 years. I write this to talk to all of the parents of troubled teens, and to the teens themselves.

Parents, know the warning signs. If your child shows signs or comes right out and tells you that they have contemplated taking their own life, please take it very seriously. Do everything you can do to get your child help. Monitor them, their computers, phones, their school work, everything. Never let your guard down.

Teens, if you’re struggling, THERE IS HOPE AND HELP. Maybe you feel alone and isolated from your parents, friends, everyone; but Teen Lifeline is one of those places that genuinely wants to listen to you and your troubles.

Should you think that no one will miss you, you are greatly mistaken. Should you think the world would be a better place without, you are flat out wrong.

By taking your own life, the heartache of those that you know, those you care about, and those that care about you, will forever have a gaping hole in their souls.  They will go through the rest of their lives asking questions for which there are no answers. Their grief will only fully disappear when they too have passed.

For myself, as time wears on, what Brandon did may dull a little but it’s always there. Always lurking in my mind and waiting for a moment to jump out and drag me down into that bottomless pit.  So many things trigger my feelings; driving by your old school, hearing a song you liked on the radio, scuba diving with your sister. The list could go on and on. All because of a desperate moment where emotions overcame logic.

I cannot speak for my wife or Brandon’s sister; however, as his father, it is this forever emptiness in my very being. We were close. We did all sorts of wonderful things together. How could this god-awful thing happen? Brandon, you broke your promise to call me if you were in trouble.

I am forever changed for the worse.

I am not angry, mind you, just very disappointed.

If you or your loved one is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide. Please reach out. Teen Lifeline is there for teens and their parents to help with whatever struggles you may be going through. There is help and there is hope. Please call 602-248-TEEN or 800-248-TEEN.

Faces of the Hotline

OnthePhone2by Tom, Peer Counselor

Every day I see the faces of people who are dedicated to helping others, not only in this city, or this state, or this country, but throughout the entire world.

They come in, say hello to me, and we catch up on anything new in our lives. We laugh and we bond with each other, as old friends.

These faces become my family. I care about them.

Then a call comes in. I see these same faces running towards the phone with a smile over the prospect that they will be able to help someone in crisis. But, I also see a hint of sadness over the fact that someone, in that moment, had a reason to call.

Faces, and their expressions, interest me.

I like thinking that a person displays their deepest emotions openly in their expressions. I see new people at Teen Lifeline with anxiety on their face as they take their first call. Then I see their face transform into joy in knowing that a caller has thanked them for helping and listening to what they have to say. Sometimes even saving the caller’s life.

Hotline ProgramI can’t fathom how happy a caller is knowing that they can talk confidentially to any of the teens here at Teen Lifeline. I can’t fathom how happy a caller is ( who was so close to suicide) after talking to someone who cares. It’s as if their world was in black and white and they finally see color.

There are times, however, where we as Peer Counselors struggle with a call. I see the somber faces of my friends as they place the phone back. I see the same expression on the Supervisors who were helping on that call.

But always I see those people light up again the next time the phone rings.

Every single person at Teen Lifeline cares about you, the callers.

And they will do everything they can to help.

When you feel alone and you have no one to turn to, call Teen Lifeline, because you’re never alone. 602-248-8336 or 800-248-8336

Life Skills Development

Life Skills Development
by Alicia Celis, Prevention Specialist

HotlineTLLThe reality is that teens don’t always turn to their parents when they’re struggling.  They turn to other teens who understand them or are going through similar problems. It was from this concept that Teen Lifeline was born!

The crisis hotline provides peer-to-peer support by utilizing teens (Peer Counselors) who answer the hotline from 3-9pm every day. Even holidays and weekends! Last year, our Peer Counselors volunteered over 15,000 service hours and provided a connection of hope to 13,987 youth! Quite impressive!

We could simply not exist without the dedication of our teens! However, in order to become a Peer Counselor, they must go through the Life Skills Development program.

In the program, teens learn how they can be a huge support. We empower our volunteers with the knowledge they need to help make other teens’ lives better. At the same time, they gain skills to impact their own lives every day.

One Peer Counselor explains:

As a teen going through the training process, you become very aware of your own habits and communication patterns. Through training, you find new ways of bettering your own communication skills and building new skills. This helps immensely when it comes to talking with parents, teachers, and friends. I have learned so much through my training and it has helped me in all aspects of my life outside of Teen Lifeline. Also, these new communication skills really help to develop lasting relationships with the other Peer Counselors. You meet so many different people, who all share similar interests and passions as you, that you would not be able to meet elsewhere. Teen Lifeline is amazing because it teaches you such valuable skills, but also because you can create lasting friendships and amazing memories.

In order to start training at Teen Lifeline, teens must be at least 15 years old and dedicated to the program. We break the training down into 3 phrases lead by Master’s level clinicians and seasoned Peer Counselors.

LEARN the breakdown of the 3 phrases of the program HERE!

photo(2)As part of becoming a Peer Counselor, we ask teens to make a four month commitment to the program after the initial training is completed. Part of that commitment is agreeing to work on the hotline a minimum of 15 hours a month. This equals about 2 to 3 shifts per month. During this time, our Peer Counselors will receive continued training, mentorship, and skill-building opportunities that they can use for the rest of their life!

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a Peer Counselor, and between the ages of 15-19, please visit our website and fill out the volunteer application form. We’ll contact you at the beginning of each new training period.

If you’re over the age of 19, we do have internships available for those who are studying in the field at University. For internship opportunities please contact Alicia Celis by email at alicia@teenlifeline.org.

For all adult volunteer opportunities on the administration or fundraising side, please contact Nick Shivka at nick@teenlifeline.org or call the business line at 602-248-8337. You can ask for Alicia or Nick!

We look forward to you joining the family!

A Message of Hope

Someone might ask you, “What is Teen Lifeline?” You might say, “Well, Teen Lifeline is a crisis hotline and they do some community outreach.” But what exactly does that MEAN?

Over the summer months we wanted to take a look at our 3 core programming areas; Community Education & Outreach, Life Skills Development and the Hotline.

First Up: Community Ed

While school may be out for the summer, our Community Education and Outreach program is going stronger than ever! It’s true that the majority of the program takes place during the school year, where we provide classroom presentations and postvention services. But all year long, we go wherever youth may be, such as boys & girls clubs, summer school or youth summits.

The presentations we conduct for teens (and adults) not only spread our name and hotline number, but they educate the community on important teen issues. Topics covered include suicide, depression, bullying prevention, grief & loss, stress/anxiety and coping skills.

We infuse diverse teaching methods that focus on increasing awareness and understanding of “problem behaviors”; on acquiring or enhancing coping skills, and increasing help seeking behavior.

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“I didn’t event know about Teen Lifeline until today.
Now I know there’s a place I can call and talk to
another teen who knows what I am going through.
After hearing about the warning signs,
I think I have a couple of friends that need this number too.”
– Mike, high school student after a recent presentation

 

 

In 2014, we were able to reach over 48,000 students and adults in Arizona through our Community Ed program! That’s 48,000 people who have the tools they need to help their friends, families and themselves when they may be struggling and in need of hope.

Looking ahead to the future, we will continue to grow this program and provide services to Arizona schools in Maricopa County, Tucson and Prescott. We also have Teen Suicide Prevention and Awareness Week in September, and we encourage all of you to come out to our community rallies at that time (more info on that to come)!

For more information on our Community Education & Outreach Program visit our website. Or if you’re an educator interested in scheduling a presentation, contact Prevention Specialist Alicia Celis at alicia@teenlifeline.org!

Community Outreach Expansion – 1 Year Later!

20235456_sby Kiyara Iravanian, Outreach Specialist

During the 2014-2015 school year, Teen Lifeline had the amazing opportunity to begin work with local schools in Tucson, Prescott, and Prescott Valley; providing both prevention education and outreach services.

Between September 2014 and May 2015, we reached nearly 20,000 youth in these communities, while providing prevention services to over 4,000 middle school and high school students!

Teen Lifeline’s relationship with these communities was not limited to just schools. We also participated in a variety of community events.

Hope Fest, located in Prescott, is an event that brings together resources and referrals that Prescott families can utilize. Teen Maze, also in Prescott, is an event specifically for Prescott and Prescott Valley teens. Here, youth are provided with the opportunity to learn about mental health and gain access to numerous resources in their community.

In Tucson, we attended the Out of the Darkness Walk sponsored by the Arizona Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This event is held to bring awareness to suicide prevention and to honor those who have died by suicide.

We also attended the Arizona 21st Century School Counseling Conference, an event designed for all Arizona school counselors. This event provides various workshops for school counselors and allowed them to meet individually with the different resources available for their students.

Through each of these community sponsored events, Teen Lifeline was able to reach 3,400 youth!

Now that school is out, the summer months will see continued work with the Suicide Prevention Coalition, The Community Prevention Coalition, and the Boys and Girls Club of Central Arizona in Tucson; all to provide support and prevention opportunities in order to create a “suicide alert” community.

Looking ahead to the 2015-2016 school year, Teen Lifeline is developing Teen Suicide Prevention Awareness Week (TSPAW) for local Tucson, Prescott, and Prescott Valley high schools. This is the same event we’ve had for 15 years in Maricopa County schools!

The event allows Teen Lifeline, along with various other local community agencies, access to students during school hours. TSPAW provides local resources to teens in their respective communities, prevention information, and the opportunity to gain more insight and information on the services Teen Lifeline provides.

In the 2015-2016 school year we hope to continue working with the Tucson, Prescott, and Prescott Valley communities and continue striving to provide prevention education to even more youth in these regions! And (eventually) beyond!

Study Stress and Anxiety

By Roman, Peer Counselor

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Exam’s week can be one of the most stressful and anxiety-filled times of the year for high school students. Even standardized testing week in elementary and middle school can have similar effects.

A student’s grades highly depend on how they do on these tests. Failing a test in any class can drop a final grade several points, which can significantly affect their Grade Point Average (GPA). Therefore, evening and nights prior to this time of the year are filled with hours upon hours of studying. Countless flash cards are made, pages of notes are taken, and textbooks become accidental pillows at the end of the day.

Every student wants to do great. Every parent wants their student to do great, too! However, the desire to do well in these exams should not trump a student’s mental health and well-being. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to do both. It just means that one should be careful, self-aware, and recognize when they’re reaching dangerous levels of stress and anxiety.

Studying for a test should not bring anyone to tears or mental breakdowns.

If it comes to the point to where your teen might feel that they are seriously hurting their mental health and well-being, a fifteen or even ten minute break can be very beneficial. Taking small breaks between subjects when you are studying has shown to be helpful according to Saint John’s University. Taking breaks allows students to stay alert in what they are studying and retain the information they are learning.

So, it’s beneficial to allow your teen to watch a favorite TV show.

Reading, writing, exercising, listening to music, taking a bath, playing with pets, or spending time with friends and family are also positive ways that your teen can relieve studying stress.

But, if things get a little difficult, and your teen is having a hard time relaxing, encourage them to call Teen Lifeline. Us as Peer Counselors can relate to your teen! We are here to talk about any type of stress and help your teen figure out their positive coping skills.

Stress and Your Teens

by Kiyara Iravanian, Outreach Specialist

15832996_sNo one is immune to it. It’s not 100 percent avoidable and at some point we all experience it.

Stress.

It’s an uncomfortable and overwhelming feeling for adults AND teens, but not all stress is bad stress.

Good Stress: In small doses, stress can actually have many advantages. In general, stress in the body ignites the vital warning signs of the “flight or fight” response. This response helps protect us from physical harm by releasing the chemicals of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine in to the body.

With teens, it can help boost their memory, improve their focus and concentration, and accomplish tasks more efficiently.

Bad Stress: While stress is an important component for survival, chronic stress can be detrimental to our teens. It can even lead to depression, anxiety, and other health related issues.

As parents, how can you help your teens alleviate the bad stress?

Teach your children about stress:

  • Help your teen to identify the things that stress them out (school, family conflicts, or very similar things that might stress you out).
  • Help them understand common physical symptoms of stress (frequent headaches, stomach aches, problems sleeping, feeling “pressured, etc.).
  • Help them understand how their emotions and behavior may change when they feel stressed.
  • Help your teen connect the concept of time management and stress. Often times our teens struggle in managing their schedule, leading them to feel overwhelmed and consumed by responsibilities. Help your teen balance their time by encouraging them to use a calendar or planner. Have them write down, not only their responsibilities, but also ways they will relax during the week.
  • Teach positive coping skills. Coping skills are typically activities or other healthy techniques your teen uses to relax. Reinforce some of the healthy ways your teen already copes with stress (playing music, watching Netflix, exercising), while introducing new techniques they can try.

Make a structured health plan:

  • Sleep: Did you know that middle school and high school students should be receiving 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep 4-5 days per week? Most teenagers report only receiving 4-6 hours of sleep a night. Developing a sleep schedule with your teen and assisting them with follow-through can help them develop healthy sleeping patterns.
  • Diet: Teens only need these 3 simple rules to maintain a healthy balanced diet:
    • Rule 1: Eat foods from all 5 food groups daily
    • Rule 2: Eat different foods from all 5 food groups daily
    • Rule 3: Select lean and low fat foods more often
  • Hydration:Statistically, everyone should drink half of their body weight of water, in ounces, each day. Say your teen is 150 pounds, then they should be drinking 75 ounces of water per day. This equation does not take into consideration climate or extracurricular activities. If they are engaged in sports or live in a dry climate more water will be needed to maintain hydration.
  • Physical Activity: A very important part of a stress-free lifestyle (and one of the best ways to cope with stress in youth) is to be engaged in some sort of physical activity which elevates the heart rate 3x per week for 20 minutes at a time. Heart rate elevation is different for each teen. Some may elevate their heart rate by walking or hiking, while others need more strenuous exercise.
  • Relaxation:Allowing the body and mind to decompress is an essential component of a stress-free life.
    • Help your teen identify at least 3 things that make them feel relaxed.
    • Allow your teen to engage in a relaxed activity for a minimum of 30 minutes after school prior to starting homework or other responsibilities.
    • Teach your youth deep breathing, mediation, and relaxation techniques in order to help them understand the importance of a relaxed vs non-relaxed body.

Asses how you interact with your teens:

  • Treat all teens as individuals: What works for one teen may not work with another. Some teens can handle juggling several responsibilities at once, while others may need to tackle one obstacle at a time. Understanding how YOUR teen manages their personal responsibilities will assist them in reducing their personal level of stress.
  • Set realistic expectations: Often times our teens become stressed and overwhelmed not only because of the numerous responsibilities they have as students, but because of the fear of disappointing their loved ones. Ask yourself if you’ve set any unrealistic expectations on your teen. The last thing we want to do as parents is set our teens up to fail!
  • Be prepared to adjust your parenting style:  We constantly discuss the need for teens to be more flexible, but it is important for parents to practice flexibility, too. If you see that a limit you are setting is not working, causing more harm than good, or leading to a power struggle, it is okay to discuss this with you teen. Make adjustments that will make you and your teen feel less stressed and overwhelmed.
  • Model healthy behavior: Teens typically learn how to manage stress from the adults around them. How do you manage your stress? Make sure you are consistently role modeling positive stress management.

Know when to seek help:  

Sometimes we can practice all these things, but it might not be working. If you are becoming increasingly concerned about your teen’s level of stress, it is ok to reach out to a professional. Consult your primary care physician for a list of behavioral health providers in your area, or YOU can call Teen Lifeline for a referral at 602-248-TEEN or 800-248-TEEN.

The End of the School Year

By Ted, Peer Counselor

As Spring Break comes to a close (or has already come and gone), everyone is beginning 4th quarter: the beginning of the end. It can be a time of excitement with the promise of a summer vacation, and the end of a year full of work. However, this time of year can also be the most stressful and overwhelming for a teen.

10248714_sStudies show that the end of the school year is a time of disproportionate stress, and there are many reasons for that. The most obvious reason is that with the end of a semester, finals are approaching for most students. That brings pressure to work a little harder and study a little more. For some teens, there is a lot of pressure because doing well on the final exam in any given class may mean the difference between passing or failing. It could mean the difference between getting into a good school or none at all. The end of this quarter becomes the crunch time to improve grades before the end of the school year.

But it’s not just grades.

High school students are preparing for prom; high school seniors are preparing for graduation. Friendships are becoming more and more difficult to maintain, and among seniors, senioritis (a real thing, I promise) peaks. It starts to feel very overwhelming for us teens.

As a result, we may be moody or have an attitude sometimes. It’s important that, as a parent, you provide support in encouraging us to take a few moments to do things we enjoy like watch Netflix or going for a run. If we’re ready to talk to you about our stress, really listen and don’t diminish the pressure that we feel. If your teen doesn’t feel comfortable talking to an adult, encourage them to call Teen Lifeline at 602-248-TEEN or 800-248-TEEN.