This story is part of a 10-part series on youth mental health in Oregon. Watch OregonLive for more stories to post later this week.
Young volunteers who staff a Portland-based crisis hotline aimed at Oregon youth say they prioritize self-care. It’s important for them to be able to continue their work on the crisis line.
They also recommend it to those who call in.
“Part of what makes our work so important isn’t just supporting teens while they’re going through things, it’s giving teens the tools they’ll need as adults,” said Sheherazade Weyland, an 18-year-old lead volunteer at the Oregon YouthLine. “Now is the time to figure out what your self-care is, now is the time to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t, and how to cope with these emotions.”
Several YouthLiners shared a few tips that they use in their own routines, as well as strategies they recommend for young people who call into the line.
- Take a moment to check-in on your mental state now and then. You can’t know if you need to take a step back or reach out for help if you’re not aware of when you’re struggling. Finn Jacobson, who has volunteered at the YouthLine for a year, said he didn’t check in with himself prior to learning self-care during his YouthLine trainings. “I think before I would recognize almost nothing about how I’m doing and my mental state,” Jacobson said. “I think that the biggest thing is that I’ve been able to recognize the signs in myself.”
- Acknowledge the high and low of your week. Weyland said many YouthLine shifts begin with a staff meeting to check in with each other and name the high and low of their week. She said this helped her put her situation into perspective. “It would force me to think about what I was going through and what good things there were and what bad things there were, instead of just focusing on the negative or just brushing off the negative,” she said.
- Prepare ahead of time for days when you’ll face stress or other challenges. Sophie Rupp, 19, says she has created a self-care tool box for herself. The outside is decorated with memes that make her laugh, and the inside is filled with tools that she’s found to help her cope: stress balls, a journal, a book of self-care tips, a stuffed animal from her childhood. “I already have this tool box of things for those days when I don’t feel good, so I don’t have to think about things I could do,” she said.
- Remember: Being good to yourself can be difficult, especially when you’re in crisis. Weyland says sometimes she hears from callers who are hopeless. When she asks what they could do to improve their mental state, they’ll tell her: “Nothing makes me happy anymore.” “I’ve been there,” she said. And when she was in that dark place, she took steps she could usually count on to make herself feel better—read, meditate, go to therapy—and it wouldn’t work. But she kept at, she said, “doing that for months until eventually I was like, ‘Hey, I’m enjoying this again, I’m getting somewhere finally.’ It was hours of work every day doing things I knew eventually would have an impact, even though I had zero desire to do them.”
- Reach out for help. Calling the YouthLine is a first step for many young people when they’re struggling—and that struggle can be with anything, not just suicide. The peer-to-peer line runs by call, text, and online chat 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. All other times of day and night, the crisis line is staffed by adults. To call, dial 877.968.8491. To text, message teen2teen to 839863. To online chat, visit oregonyouthline.org. The crisis line staff can help connect youth with the resources they need.
–Casey Chaffin; email@example.com; @todaycaseysays