Oregon teens in crisis can now text for help - KPTV - FOX 12

Oregon teens in crisis can now text for help

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

It's a fact -- teens text. 

"I text in the morning, at school, during school, after school, at night," said 16-year-old Montae Ferguson.

And many teens prefer the ease of text over talk.

"You see a lot of people looking down and smiling, which is the obvious sign,"  said 17-year-old Eli Morse.

For years, troubled teenagers picked up the phone for help, calling crisis and suicide prevention hotlines.

But now, "talking to someone" is as easy as sending a message to a friend.

At Oregon Partnership's "Lines for Life" youth line in southwest Portland, teen volunteers field text messages from peers in crisis.

One of only a handful of texting hotlines in the country, the youth line launched the text option last month, and has already logged about 700 text messages from 50 teens.

"We've got texts about bullying, about boyfriend problems, about eating disorders, about parents, about pregnancy, about homelessness," said teen volunteer Elena Lopez.

"You can always text us and you can feel safe," said Rene Teeuwen, who is 18 years old.

Teeuwen knows what's like to feel alone. When she was 12 years old, she said she tried to commit suicide after relentless bullying.

"Each day in middle school, I was asked out by a different guy as a joke. They would constantly make fun of my weight, saying that I was really, really fat, that I should lose weight and that I shouldn't live. People telling me that I'm not worth anything and I should die," said Teeuwen.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the U.S., suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24. About 4,400 lives are lost each year.

"In a situation where you can't use the phone. If you're living with your parents, which most teenagers are, you can't call about them, because they can hear you. 1:20:49 but texting makes it a lot more private, a lot more personal," said Lopez.

The evening FOX 12 spent at the "text center," volunteers received messages from girls with eating disorders and boyfriend issues.

Volunteers admit they lose the vocal cues of a phone call, but say texting gives them time to consult on the best advice. It's the kind of validation Teeuwen wishes she had back in middle school.

"You have to figure out your own coping skills and take it day by day," she said.

If you think you need help, you can call the youth line at 1-877-968-8491 or text teen2teen to 66746. If you are over the age of 18, text 4support to 66746.

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