Teen Link: Linking teens-to-teens to discuss mental health

Take a look into our community’s teen mental health organization

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by Finley Stroh, Cub Co-Editor

A unique organization of teens supporting teens, TeenLink is a teen mental health hotline as well as website that allows teenagers to call or chat with their peers anonymously about issues in their life. This organization facilitates a bonded relationship in our generation as well as support surrounding mental health in our community.

Teen Link volunteer Youth Outreach Specialists, Aida Chan, junior, another student choosing to remain anonymous, as well as Teen Link Volunteer Coordinator, Zanny Shehata, emphasized the large and unique impact this organization has on teens seeking resources, as well as the volunteers, and in turn, the organization itself.

Teen Link is part of the general Crisis Connections organization in Washington state. Teen Link serves as a mental health resource to teens in Washington, through access to online resources and 6-10 p.m. calls and chats everyday, with trained teen volunteers on the other line. Teens call, chat, or text to discuss subjects ranging from everyday stressors to anxiety, depression, suicide, and more.

Student volunteers as well as Shehata emphasize the power of the teen-to-teen dynamic. This can ease the difficulty when discussing these tough topics, as well as strengthen the connection and understanding of mental health in our generation. “One aspect that I truly appreciate about Teen Link is the idea of a peer-to-peer conversation without judgment or reprimand. I think that as teenagers the concept of having a completely nonjudgmental conversation is incredibly rare,” Chan said.

Furthermore, the anonymous student and Shehata share that they have found that teens who call in sometimes end the call feeling better or even laughing or joking with the teen volunteer. “I think it has a really positive impact, I know that phone workers have talked about after calls or chats, the caller will [say] ‘thank you’, and even saying sometimes… ‘Thank you I feel so much better,” the anonymous Shorewood student said. Shehata adds: “No issue is too big or too small to talk about with us.” 

Teen Link both links teens together, connects teens to mental health resources, and even deepens volunteer’s understanding of mental health, creating a flourishing community. Not only do teens have access to resources, and support in sharing difficult topics, teen volunteers have also been able to spread more awareness about mental health, be inspired by others’ stories, and be able to relate to their peers like no other, all living as teenagers in this day and age. “Their stories resonate with me and motivate me to continue my work as an advocate for youth mental health. I carry these conversations with me and apply the lessons I have learned from them to all aspects of my life,” Chan said.

Through the power of connecting together as teens on both sides of the line, students are able to support, relate, cultivate a community with others, and abolish the stigma surrounding mental health. Chan said,“I believe that it is important to destigmatize and to continue to discuss these topics because only we, as teens, can truly empathize with and understand what it is like to go through what we go through daily, and by continuing to have these hard conversations, we can build both trust and support.”