Our Story

Teen Lifeline LogoTeen Lifeline started after a movie, Surviving starring Molly Ringwald, aired on prime-time network television in 1985. The movie was quite controversial because it was the first time teen suicide had been portrayed in such a public way. The movie made the cover of People Magazine and was instrumental in beginning public conversations about teen suicide. As a result, mental health agencies began to look at the problem of teen suicide. It was then discovered that Arizona’s teen suicide rate was double the national average. Arizona ranked second in the nation for the rate of teen suicide.

Something needed to be done, so Teen Lifeline was developed as an innovative solution to address teen suicide in the Phoenix area.


  • Through a grant from the McKesson Foundation, Teen Lifeline began in 1986 as a program of Phoenix South Community Mental Health Center and was a school-based program in Central High School located in Phoenix.
  • In 1988, the training was decentralized and we began recruiting teens from all over the valley.
  • In 1991, through a grant from the Marshall Fund of Arizona, Teen Lifeline began serving the entire State of Arizona through a toll free number.aas
  • In 1996, Teen Lifeline lost its state prevention funding and spun off from Southwest Behavioral Health and merged with TERROS.
  • In 1999, Teen Lifeline received its 501(c)3 designation from the federal government.
  • On January 1, 2000 Teen Lifeline became a free standing non-profit organization.
  • In 2003, Teen Lifeline was the first Peer Counseling Hotline to receive accreditation through the American Association of Suicidology.
  • In 2012, Teen Lifeline launched its Facebook page as one of the early pioneers to provide awareness and education through this medium.
  • in 2016, celebrated 30 years of help and hope!
  • In 2016, Teen Lifeline

Now in our 32nd year, Teen Lifeline has grown in size and impact. But our focus on our mission has remained steadfast: to end teen suicide, to provide a connection of hope to teens in crisis and to empower our youth to make healthy decisions.

How have we done that? Through our 3 core programs:

The Hotline
The hotline itself is the heart of why we exist. We are here to save lives, and whenever the phone rings, we are given that chance. These are not just calls; these are youth reaching out for help. They are searching for hope.

From the very beginning, Teen Lifeline’s hotline has been a connection of hope for teens in crisis. Some call just needing a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on; others call as a last resort. No matter the reason, Teen Lifeline and our counselors are here 365 days a year ready to listen and help.

phonesPeer to Peer
The biggest factor that separates Teen Lifeline from other crisis hotlines is the people who answer the phone. When teens want to talk about their problems, more often than not, they turn to other teens. Teens helping teens is what makes Teen Lifeline both unique and incredibly successful. Our teen Peer Counselors train for months for the chance to help someone. Our volunteers can empathize and understand the problems of the callers because, in many cases, they have or are going through the same things themselves.

Our Life Skills Development program provides our Peer Counselors with the highest quality training, ongoing development, adult mentorship, peer support and real-world job training. In exchange for their service to other teens, these Peer Counselors learn the value of volunteerism, the importance of responsibility, fundamental communication and life skills.

More Than a Hotline…
With our Community Education and Outreach program, Teen Lifeline is able to reach thousands more every year. Our presentations not only spread our name and hotline number, but also educate the community on important issues. This program involves diverse teaching methods that focus on increasing awareness and understanding of problem behaviors, acquiring or enhancing coping skills, and increasing help seeking behavior.

Presentations include education on suicide prevention, bullying, stress, coping and grief. These efforts are provided to middle school and high school aged youth both in and out of a school setting and to adults who are involved with youth. Our programs are implemented by staff members who are sensitive, competent, and trained in prevention and intervention methods which adhere to the American Association of Suicidology standards.

To learn more about us read up on our history, say hello to our staff, and feel free to explore the rest of our site! If you’re a former volunteer, visit our alumni page! We want to hear from you!