Everyone has times of struggle in life, and young people are no exception. In fact, in many cases, they can feel life’s upheavals most acutely, whether those troubles stem from family, friends, dating, other close relationships, school, jobs, clubs or teams. Or the darkness they feel may come from a confusing place among their own emotions, or even from being a victim of or involved with a crime.
California Coalition for Youth, through its toll-free, 24-hour/365-day crisis counseling and intervention hotline known as the California Youth Crisis Line, offers critical, sometimes lifesaving assistance to youth ages 12-24 who are battling troubles that overwhelm them. The hotline is open to calls and texts every minute of every day year-round. In addition to teens and young adults experiencing crises themselves, the line is also open to parents, teachers, coaches, school guidance counselors and any other adults who are allies of youth.
“We’re open for calls at any time of any day or any night, every day of the year, ready to listen and assist any youth or any adult allies of youth,” says Bianca Christian, program manager. “We’re completely confidential and anonymous, and reaching us is really as simple as just making that call. It’s free and it’s available to anyone in need in every corner of California. We’re here to help and can listen, offer support and information and provide resources.”
Established in 1986, CCY now fields 20,000 calls annually from throughout the entire state. Call volume fluctuates daily and seasonally, with nighttime and holidays their busiest times. “Young people may feel lonely or anxious or experience family conflict and just need to reach out,” Christian says. “We’re here for them but also for those who may be experiencing homelessness, may be the victim of a crime or may be feeling suicidal. There’s nothing too big or too small for our crisis counselors to assist with.”
CCY tries to achieve as much statewide awareness of its services as possible, including having its hotline number on the radio, posters and cinema screen advertisements, but more often calls come by referral from school counselors, nonprofit counseling and mental health resources.
More than 60 volunteer crisis counselors field calls in shifts, and five on-staff crisis counselors help fill in spots as needed, while the program manager, program coordinator and lead counselor help oversee all operations. Every CCY crisis counselor has 60 hours of formal training and up to 120 hours of shadow training.
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” says Christian. “Many of the volunteer crisis counselors are youth themselves, including many college students and older high school students, so we have a natural revolving door as their lives shift and change.”
CCY looks to the community for contributions as well. Funded partially by the California Office of Emergency Services, it utilizes its discretionary funding for volunteer retention and training, keeping crisis counselors ahead of the curve in terms of industry standards. That money also helps staff the crisis line, so CCY can be sure to always have a paid crisis counselor on shift, even in the middle of the night.
Today’s youth confront many challenges, and CCY crisis counselors are a first line of assistance for them when they feel overwhelmed. Help CCY help our youth.