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Teen Lifeline urges Arizonans to call or text a teen on National Telephone Day, April 25

Is there a better reason to use your phone than to make a potentially life-saving call?

Teen Lifeline staff and volunteers are urging every Arizonan with a phone to take proactive action on National Telephone Day, Thursday, April 25, by calling or texting a teen in their life to check in, say hello and let them know you care.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, strong, positive relationships with others can be protective and prevent suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

These protective relationships can be especially important this time of year, as research indicates the number of suicides rises during the spring months. The Teen Lifeline crisis hotline, staffed by volunteer teen peer counselors, handles a 10% increase in calls from teens in crisis each year between spring break and the end of the school year.

“Whether it’s finals, graduation or friends moving on and moving away, the end of the school year is more stressful for our teens than we realize,” said Nikki Kontz, clinical director at Teen Lifeline. “Please use your phone for its best possible purpose on April 25 and throughout the next two months – to check in with a teen and see how they are doing. It could save a life.”

It's important for teenagers to know that the adults in their lives care about them, Kontz said, yet she also urges teens to reach out to other teens on National Telephone Day. “It’s all about making someone feel like they’re cared about,” she added.

In 2023, Teen Lifeline received nearly 48,000 calls and text messages from teens in crisis – a 10.6% increase from call volumes in 2022. Of those, nearly 16,000 calls and texts were from a teen experiencing thoughts of suicide.

A teen’s cell phone, as Kontz explained, can be an important relationship building tool for parents, caregivers, family members and friends.

“Some teens who are nervous about opening up in person will be more likely to share their feelings through text messages, especially when they are struggling with something,” said Kontz.

Sending memes, gifs or articles that align with a teen’s interests is another way to use a cell phone to uplift, encourage and maintain a relationship.

On National Telephone Day, Kontz recommends reaching out with simple messages, which could include:

· Just checking in. How are you doing?

· Thinking about you today – how’s it going?

· Doing OK at school?

· Feeling good about finals or do you need some support?

· Haven’t talked in a while and wanted to say hi!

· I hope you’re having a great week!

· I miss you, let’s make plans to see each other soon!

· I love you! How are you today?

During the spring, and year-round, adults are encouraged to pay attention to common warning signs a teen may be considering suicide. These can include:

· Talking about death, wanting to die or feelings of falling apart.

· Changes in sleeping or eating habits.

· Feeling depressed, sad or hopeless for more than two weeks.

· Extreme mood swings.

· Isolating or withdrawing from friends, family or usual social activities.

· Drastic changes in usual behavior.

Adults who suspect a teen may be having thoughts of suicide should ask the teen about it directly. Asking the question will not plant the idea of suicide in a teenager’s head and it can give them permission to speak freely, said Kontz.

If a teen replies that they have been thinking about suicide, Kontz recommends thanking them for their honesty and then asking questions about how they’ve been feeling and why.

If a teen is in immediate danger of self-inflicted harm or of acting on suicidal thoughts, call 911 or take the child to an emergency room.

If the teen is not in immediate danger, create a plan to get help by calling Teen Lifeline or seeking a referral to mental health services or counseling. While waiting for services, be sure to minimize suicide risks by locking up all medications, sharp objects and poisonous chemicals and securing all firearms, including storing ammunition separately.

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