The Teen Talk app connects teenagers in need of support with advice from those who understand them best: other teens. They say it’s working great.
The platform was created by Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles in partnership with Teen Line and allows teenagers from around the world to seek mental health support and advice anonymously from trained peer advisors.
It’s a popular resource at Santa Monica High School where several students work as advisors.
“When you’re desperate and reaching out for support and you get someone your age who says ‘I’ve gone through the exact same thing or I have friends that have, let me give you a bunch of resources, I’m here for you’, that is really powerful and make can make that one person feel so much less alone,” said Alana Basmajian, Teen Talk advisor and senior at Samohi.
When the pandemic started the app saw an immediate increase in the number of posts, severity of topics and number of downloads. The platform currently receives around 200 posts a day and has 140 trained advisors ready to help.
To help reach more teens developers recently launched an updated platform and expanded to Android devices.
Teen Talk has proven to be a safe space for high school and middle schoolers to share their experiences without judgment. By reading other users’ anonymous posts, teenagers can see that though their problems might feel at times overwhelming and isolating, there are other teens out there who get it.
“As teenagers we can empathize more directly with them since we have an idea of what they’re going through. It’s a more direct connection than speaking with an adult. We are also living with a different set of circumstances since our generation has all these social media apps where we’re constantly seeing what others are doing,” said Dhruv Madiraju, Teen Talk advisor and junior at Samohi.
Each advisor goes through 50 hours of training and learns a wide range of skills to support other teens dealing with issues related to sexuality, self-harm, depression, abuse, anxiety, and relationships.
Peer advisors say that the training process, while hard work and a significant time commitment, taught them invaluable life skills.
“During the bullying unit in our training, it helped me re-evaluate the friendships in my life, and realize how unhealthy and unhappy they were,” said Basmajian. “It changed my life socially very much, but most importantly, it made me a lot more confident in my belief that one person can make a big difference.”
“We were taught all these cool little tricks by our mentors, like one of them is hugging ourselves and patting and apparently that relieves a lot of stress, and I do it a whole bunch—it’s awesome!” said Madiraju. “I feel like I’ve become a much better communicator and I know for a fact that Teen Talk has given me skills that I will use for the rest of my life.”
The app is open for posts 24/7 and every day from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. PST teen advisors are available to respond in real time. Advisors are supervised by mental health professionals who monitor posts and responses.
“It’s a really wonderful app and I would love for more people to be able to reach out and get support,” said Basmajian. “I think there’s a lot of kids that need it even for small issues because small issues can lead to bigger ones.”