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Charlotte Amalie
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Not For Profit: Teen Line

Aug. 6, 2006 — Are you a teenager? Do you need help? Are you lonely? Scared? Depressed? Then call Teen line at 713-TEEN. It's a confidential and free service where young people can call and talk to other young people who are trained to respond to your questions.
Teen line was developed in an attempt to help teens deal with pressures of violence in the home or at school, domestic abuse, sexuality, pressure to succeed or fit in with the crowd and other problems teens face. The program provides an avenue where teens can seek help and find release.
"Teen suicides are up all over the country," said Laurie Christian, Teen Line director. "People overdose on the news, have shorter fuses and can't seem to properly respond to the stress in their life."
Christian knows there is an urgent need in this community for teenagers to talk to their peers about important issues. "When you see the headlines of teens involved in gangs, rape, pornography and violence — when you see the poverty, there is clear documentation that there is a need for a program like this."
"Young people feel more comfortable talking to young people," she said. "It's important for young people to know the program is completely confidential. We don't have caller I.D., it's completely anonymous."
The phone lines have been open to callers for a few weeks from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. After school begins the phones will stay open until 9 p.m. So far the calls have been sporadic, Christian said, but when school opens the program expects to be flooded with calls. "They are testing the waters now," Christian says about the teens, "but everyone says just be ready for when school starts."
Teen Line is being promoted with limited resources using e-mail, press releases, flyers and word of mouth. In the near future they will launch their Web page. "It's going to be very informative and interactive," Christian said. Plans for the Web site include blogs, updated by teens, referral links, and a calendar of events. Teen Line advertisements will also be displayed in the movie theaters.
Besides the volunteers, Teen Line has a very small staff. "It's just me, myself and I," said Christian, adding that she does have a part-time program assistant, Yolanda Williams. "But we are covering a lot of ground."
Teen Line is still recruiting volunteers ages 16 to 22. Volunteers go through a two-day intensive training pprogram, where they learn various techniques through role play and commit to work 3 hours a week for at least 6 months. Christian said the most important attribute of volunteers is their ability to maintain strict confidentiality.
The program is a product of Lutheran Social Services, which revived the Teen Line after many years of it being dormant. Christian said LSS ran a similar program for several years beginning in 1983.
This program will not be successful without the help of the community, Christian admitted. She said several key alliances have been established with other counseling professionals and non-profits including The V.I. Community AIDS Resource and Education Inc., the Women's Coalition and the Village Partners In Recovery. The program is also working to establish written protocol with the VIPD on how to handle crisis calls, such as suicide, that may require the immediate dispatch of emergency assistance.
Christian said not all the calls received at Teen Line are from teenagers. "The calls just come in from any one seeking help. We try to refer them to the appropriate agency."
"The good news is that we are here," Christian said.

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