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Arizona suicide hotline lets teens in crisis get help from other teens

(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX – Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among Arizona teens, but kids that age often aren’t comfortable discussing their problems with parents or other adults.

That’s where Teen Lifeline comes in, running the only peer crisis counseling hotline in the state.

“Teens really do turn to talk to their friends and other teens when they’re having problems,” Nikki Kontz, clinical director for Teen Lifeline, told KTAR News 92.3 FM this week.

Teen Lifeline gives kids who are struggling the chance to talk to someone roughly their own age.

“We train teenagers in Maricopa County to take calls and talk to other teens that are having problems or going through crisis, and they can talk to other teens and help them,” Kontz said.

The hotline is available every day, including weekends and holidays, with teens manning the phones from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and adults answering calls that come in at other times.

“Sometimes people feel like they can’t talk to anyone else in their life, but talking to another teenager can sometimes feel like you’re just talking to another friend,” said Shivani, a Teen Lifeline peer counselor who didn’t want to use her last name.

The program is supervised by master’s-level clinicians, Kontz said.

The Teen Lifeline also provides help through text messages, because the idea of calling seems scary for some kids.

“Our goal at that point is to try to see if we can get them to call in,” Kontz said. “Most of our texters turn into callers at some point.”

Only unintentional injuries claim more lives than suicide among Arizona children ages 10-19. There were 65 deaths by suicide for that age group in the state in 2016, the most recent year for which data was available.

Teen Lifeline received more than 20,000 calls and 1,200 text messages in 2017. In addition to providing counseling, the hotline refers callers to other resources in the community.

The program also provides education to kids and parents, helping them identify warning signs and learn the key coping skills of talking, problem solving and stress relief.

With September being National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Teen Hotline is holding events at 30 Phoenix-area schools in 30 days, spreading awareness and information about the issue.

“Suicide is preventable, and it takes all of us,” Kontz said.

Anyody seeking help can call or text Teen Lifeline at 602-248-TEEN (8336) in Maricopa County or 800-248-TEEN statewide.

Information about Teen Lifeline programs or volunteering is available at the nonprofit group’s website.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood contributed to this report.

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