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Local Nonprofit Acquires Teen-To-Teen Crisis Line With Plans To Expand

Teen Line counselors Lily Kramon (L) and Jonathan Gelfond (R) completed 65 hours of training and months of shadowing in order to support their peers over calls and texts. They stand on either side of a banner that features pictures of youth hanging out and smiling. The banner reads "teen line, teens helping teens."
Teen Line counselors Lily Kramon (L) and Jonathan Gelfond (R) completed 65 hours of training and months of shadowing so they could support their peers over calls and texts.
(Robert Garrova / LAist)
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Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit that helps run the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, announced Thursday that it’s acquiring Teen Line, a youth-led mental health crisis line.

Didi Hirsch CEO Lyn Morris told a press conference the acquisition will allow Teen Line to train more youth to staff the crisis line, which currently takes calls between 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. PT every night.

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Teen Line, which started in 1980, trains between 60-80 L.A.-based youth a year to answer calls from their peers who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.

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Lily Kramon, a 17-year-old Teen Line volunteer, completed 65 hours of training and months of observing calls and texts before she took her first call from a peer.

“I think it’s definitely loneliness that comes up a lot,” Kramon said. “And I think that definitely relates to the pandemic and also just being on our phones a lot and being isolated.”

Kramon said she talks with a lot of teens who tell her they don’t know who to reach out to when they need mental health support and often keep their struggles to themselves.

“So many people call having never talked about what they went through,” she said.

Teen Line COO Cheryl Eskin said the young counselors have helped close to 1,000 teens who called reporting thoughts of suicide during the past year, and have supported numerous other peers dealing with everything from anxiety to child abuse.

During the worst of the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, Kramon and her colleagues went remote, answering calls from home. For Kramon, that meant sitting in her bedroom supporting her peers in crisis through a laptop computer screen and a phone. But she, too, found the calls helpful.

“I didn’t get to see my friends, I didn’t get to see my peers, so there on the phone I was making a connection with someone, so that was special and that was helpful for me,” said Kramon.

Didi Hirsch’s push to train more teen counselors comes after U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a stark warning last year in an Advisory on Protecting Youth Mental Health.

In the advisory, Murthy cited global research that found “depressive and anxiety symptoms doubled during the pandemic.”