TEEN LINE FOUNDATIONS Pt 3 – Early Challenges

Chapter Three:   Early Challenges

As we prepare for our 35th Anniversary, Dr. Leader will share her memories of the early days of TEEN LINE in a series we like to call…

By Elaine Leader, Ph.D., CGP, BCD, FAGPA

Dr. Elaine Leader

One of the first big challenges, of course, was setting up the telephone lines, the phone number and generally organizing the shifts.  The enthusiasm of our first training group was exhilarating and catching. But one group of adults was not so excited about our efforts.  Guess who?  The Cedars-Sinai Attending Staff Psychiatrists!  I did understand their concern which focused on how a bunch of teens could handle calls from young people expressing suicidal thoughts or even actions.  How would they deal with such serious issues when even they, the medical specialists, find this challenging?  I secretly wondered, too, if the doctors were concerned that our hotline would be so successful that they would end up without clients to treat!

And here is where our co-Founder Dr. Terry Lipton became our knight in shining armor.  He met with the Attending Staff Psychiatrists and explained the TEEN LINE program and that our teen listeners were being trained as to how to assess and how to refer to appropriate community resources.  This allayed the doctors’ concerns and they ended up becoming our staunch supporters.

Another one of our big challenges was how to get the word out to the community, particularly to the schools about our service and how to get public relations involved promoting our hotline number to the wider community.  We were very fortunate to have some great supporters.  Marilyn and Monty Hall hosted an evening at their home to introduce us to their friends who were interested in community programs.

Amongst their guests was the wonderful Marilyn Bush who was the Community Liaison for the Los Angeles Unified School District.  Marilyn loved the idea of TEEN LINE and immediately went to work to have me invited to speak at the next meeting when the LAUSD high school Principals were due to meet.

There were 49 Principals at that meeting so I was pretty shaky in my boots in speaking to them but it was like opening doors to the world that needed to know about our program.  And that was the start of our Community Outreach Program.  With Marilyn’s help I began the process of following up with the schools most interested and welcoming and this gave us the confidence to reach out to other school districts nearby as well as the LA County Schools.  And that led to a frantic rush to print cards, flyers, posters and brochures about who we were.  And the need, therefore, to raise more funds beyond our original $49,000 start-up grant from the Robert Ellis Simon Foundation.  Stay tuned for our next installment!

Read the next chapter: Pt 4 – Resourcing RAs!


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