A Teen Hot Line

By Dolan, Brien | Adolescence, Spring 1995 | Go to article overview

A Teen Hot Line


Dolan, Brien, Adolescence


The Teen Hot Line in Campbell River was developed in response to the large apparent need for teens to talk with their peers about important issues (Tindall & Gray, 1989). In order to reach out to as many youths as possible, a regularly scheduled volunteer telephone service staffed by trained high school students was required to address at least some of their concerns.

The results of a Student Needs Assessment Survey (Dolan, 1991), as well as research on the views of some alternate school students at the time (Dolan, 1980), indicated that most youths would prefer to talk to someone their own age with regard to interpersonal, school or relationship issues before they would approach a trusted teacher, counsellor, coach, or parent.

At Carihi Secondary School, in Campbell River, British Columbia, there is a very active peer counselling program modeled on The Peer Counselling project from The University of Victoria (Carr & Sounders, 1980). Our program has been very successfully operated using the continual introduction of new materials and differing approaches for training methods. Over the past five years, groups of dynamic and committed young people have taken part in a wide variety of activities and have shared many meaningful experiences. In turn, efforts to reach out to a greater number of students led to the evolution of the concept of the Teen Hot Line. The writer's belief was that if there was a trained and dedicated group of young people to volunteer their time in the evenings to man a confidential telephone line, then troubled youths would be encouraged to call for help and advice.

Prior to the start of the hot line, it was necessary to proceed through several steps including administration of a confidential survey to a random number of students at the four secondary schools in town soliciting suggestions and opinions on a hot line, conducting a review of the available literature, and soliciting advice from the Campbell River Adult Crisis Line, relevant Social Service agencies, and school counsellors in the areas. The feedback from all these sources indicated that this type of crisis line would provide a needed service to a significant number of youths in the town.

To initiate the actual operation, several experienced peer counsellors were selected to participate in a three-day seminar that focused on social issues, telephone rapport, and role plays. Utilizing a small grant from The Alcohol and Drug Programs (Ministry of Health, B.C.) in Campbell River, a ten-week pilot project was placed in operation from April to June, 1992. Initially the telephone line was open from 4:00 P.M. to 10:00 P.M., Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Two shifts of volunteers were scheduled each evening, one from 4:00 to 7:00 and the other from 7:00 to 10:00. To facilitate ongoing training and to encourage a sense of camaraderie among the participants, it was decided to have two students on each shift. Thus, there were twelve volunteers on line each week.

The program manager, a trained and experienced adult, was hired to conduct mini-training sessions, act as a resource for the volunteers, and to make arrangements for transportation home for each person at the end of the shifts. In an effort to involve as many trained volunteers from the different schools as possible, a call-forwarding system was used so that a call to the Hot Line number would be automatically forwarded to the student volunteers in the student services office at one of the high schools. The location of the volunteers and the program manager rotated each week depending on the students' school of origin. Immediate benefits for the workers included ongoing training and awareness of issues of concern, an opportunity to socialize with other like-minded teens, some quiet time to do homework assignments, and expanded career awareness in the social service areas. Indeed, depending on the total number of hours spent at the Hot Line, a student could also receive a course credit in the Human Services Career Preparation Program. …

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