Past and present Teen Line/ConnecTeen volunteers and staff at ConnecTeen 40th Anniversary celebration.
Distress Centre recently celebrated an exciting milestone – ConnecTeen’s 40th Anniversary. ConnecTeen is Distress Centre Calgary’s peer support line. Known initially as Teen Line, the service emerged in 1983 as a first-of-its-kind space in Canada where teens could talk to other teens who could understand and relate to the problems they were going through. The logo, Just Between Teens, was meant to tell teens that Teen Line would provide free, confidential peer-to-peer communication and support, filling a void in adolescent support services. Over the decades, Teen Line evolved with the times, introducing the Urban Vibe website to empower young voices in the early days of the internet, transitioning to ConnecTeen in 2011, and pioneering crisis text support in 2013, a first in North America. Fast forward to 2021, and ConnecTeen’s crisis chat and text services are available round the clock, offering a lifeline when it’s needed most.
To learn more about ConnecTeen/Teen Line’s history, see our 50 Stories series.
80s Teen Line poster.
90s Teen Line poster.
While the world has profoundly transformed since 1983, ConnecTeen’s commitment to supporting youth facing life’s challenges remains unchanged. The fundamental issues faced by adolescents in the past continue to thread their way through the four decades. Stress about school, bullying, navigating friendships and romance, tension with parents, drugs and peer pressure are still very much part of the adolescent experience. As Marlene from Teen Line once noted,
“We get calls from kids who want to know about drugs, their side effects and legal implications and consequences. We get calls from kids contemplating suicide, quitting school, and just about anything else you can think of.”
When you think of the impact of ConnecTeen, you think of the youth who contact CT and receive encouragement, validation, and a space to be heard. Yet its impact spans beyond the service user, touching the lives of the volunteers and staff who man the lines. Volunteering or working at ConnecTeen has transformed lives and launched careers. Being a part of ConnecTeen transforms individuals, giving them the skills to help those in crisis and navigate their own lives with greater empathy and understanding. As Nic from ConnecTeen reflects,
“It completely changed how I interact with my friends, especially those with a crisis or issues. I like being the person my friends come to when they have issues. Distress Centre training just kind of kicks in, and I am more aware of how what I say affects my communication with others. The skills you learn from being on the line, you can’t learn that anywhere else.”
90s Teen Line volunteer.
With World Suicide Prevention Day occurring just a few days after ConnecTeen’s 40th Anniversary Celebration, we’re reminded of the enduring importance of ConnecTeen’s mission. ConnecTeen has made 45,000 contacts in this last decade alone, reinforcing that youth not only need but deserve a safe space to feel validated and heard. We couldn’t be more proud about serving the youth in our community for 40 years. We would not be here at 40 years without the generosity and support of all the volunteers, staff, funders, donors, and, most importantly, the youth who have trusted us with their lives and stories over the last four decades.
We’re absolutely thrilled to introduce ConnecTeen’s brand-new look to our wonderful community. This revamped appearance is designed to draw renewed attention to the vital mental health work they passionately pursue, transforming the lives of those they reach. Stay tuned for more updates!
Youth can contact ConnecTeen 24 hours a day:
Phone: 403-264-TEEN (8336)
Youth-to-youth support is available from 3-10pm on weeknights and 12-10pm on weekends.
Thoughts of suicide impact people at every age. Find resources here.