By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Since 1980, volunteers at the Los Angeles-based Teen Line spend every night taking calls, responding to texts messages and replying to emails from tens of thousands of teenagers in need across the country and from around the world each year.

Teens, some who have had their own mental health challenges, go through intensive training to become teen listeners. (Credit: Teen Line)

“That can be anything from relationships, stress, anxiety, things relating to depression, child abuse, suicide, grief and loss,” Brandon, a Teen Line volunteer, said. “It’s teens helping other teens. That can really give it a feeling of like, you know, you’re just talking to a friend.”

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Brandon, 16, has been a volunteer with Teen Line for two years. He and other qualified teens, some who have had their own mental health challenges, go through intensive training to become teen listeners. Brandon said he wanted to get involved and help others after dealing with depression.

“We are trained to provide empathy and validate what they’re going through and just really be there for them and let them know that we’re understanding what they’re feeling and that what they’re feeling isn’t wrong,” he said.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Teen Line has not only seen an increase in the number of calls, but also in calls having to do with the issues teens are facing as a result of staying home and not being able to attend school in person.

“We’ve had a huge increase in teens reaching out about child abuse, in particular, teens living in non-safe environments,” Cheryl Eskin, the Teen Line program director, said. “Schools or outside activities are often refuge for a lot of teens.”

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Eskin said that for the majority of teens, not being in school has taken away one source of coping as well as connection.

“This is developmentally the time they’re supposed to be with their peers, they’re supposed to be kind of moving away from their parents, moving toward independence,” she said. “But I think loneliness seems to be a big theme, lack of motivation.”

“Personally, I can relate to both of those things,” Brandon said. “I think not being able to see my friends as much as online school has definitely been harder for me.”

Brandon said he and the other volunteers make sure those who reach out know they’re not alone. He said their job during that first conversation is to guide them through the challenge they’re facing and give them the resources they need to move forward — potentially saving a life in the process.

“It’s really heartwarming to hear that and to hear that what you’re doing is really helping someone who needs it,” Brandon said. “It’s definitely very gratifying.”

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More information about the Teen Line can be found on the organization’s website.