Mission: To provide a safe, confidential and crucial crisis service where teens help teens make healthy decisions.
Vision:To impact the devastating problem of teen suicide in Arizona so that any teen at any time will have knowledge and access to Teen Lifeline, its counselors and services.
The idea for starting Teen Lifeline began in early 1985 when a movie called “Surviving” was aired on network television. For 1985, it was quite controversial and helped to raise the awareness about teen suicide. Also in 1985, Arizona’s teen suicide was double the national average, and Arizona ranked second in the nation for the number of teens who committed suicide.
Phoenix South Community Mental Health Center (what is now known as Southwest Behavioral) wanted to start programming that addressed teen suicide. A thorough search of effective programs was conducted and peer counseling programs were on the “cutting edge” in recognizing and assisting troubled teens.
The peer-counseling concept called for training teens to assist other teens with problems. Utilizing teens in this type of prevention and intervention is an important link to getting help since teens usually confide in their peers first. So, Teen Lifeline began this type of program in the summer of 1986. It was based out of Phoenix Central High School through a grant from the McKessan Foundation.
In 1988, Teen Lifeline’s hotline served approximately 500 teens in Maricopa County and trained 40 in life skills development to become Peer Counselors. In 1991, local statistics revealed that rural youth in Arizona were at greater risk for suicide than their urban counterparts. So the hotline went statewide through an 800 service funded by the Marshall Fund of Arizona.
Fast forward from the mid and late 80’s to the late 90’s. In 1997, Teen Lifeline lost its prevention funding from the State of Arizona and made a difficult decision to spin-off from our then-parent agency, Southwest Behavioral, and merge with another local nonprofit, TERROS. Teen Lifeline remained a program under TERROS until January 1, 2000 when the organization spun-off again and became a free-standing nonprofit focusing on the issues of teens in Arizona.
Today, Teen Lifeline is a financially strong and independent 501(c)(3) organization. Teen Lifeline trains 25 + teens four times per year to be Peer Counselors, and the hotline takes more than 6,000 calls per year. Since its inception, Teen Lifeline has trained over 700 adolescents in Life Skills Development as Peer Counselors in the program. Additionally, more than 30,000 individuals are reached through Teen Lifeline’s community education programs in middle schools and high schools every year.
The future of Arizona’s youth is being supported and secured by the tremendous work of teen volunteers and the programs and services provided by Teen Lifeline.