Meet Altamish, a dedicated volunteer at ConnecTeen, a compassionate leadership coach, and a Midnight Crisis Line Worker who has selflessly served on the lines for five years. While most young people spend their evenings and weekends hanging out with friends or scrolling through social media platforms like TikTok, Altamish dedicates his time to helping fellow youth navigate the emotionally complex journey of adolescence by offering a compassionate and listening ear in times of crisis.
Altamish embarked on his ConnecTeen journey in 2017, driven by a dual purpose of wanting to help others and develop skills. Soon after he started answering ConnecTeen contacts, Altamish discovered that the skills he was acquiring weren’t solely beneficial for those late-night conversations.
“I first started volunteering here because I wanted the experience and I wanted to know what it felt like to actually help others who were in a situation of need and to build those skills and those connections, but then slowly I realized that it’s a lot more than that. I mean, at first, I realized that the training was not only applicable to the lines and people in crisis, but also in my everyday life and communicating with my loved ones and people who I cared about.”
Over time, Altamish’s work at ConnecTeen evolved from a commitment into a true passion. His aspirations now extend to a career in psychiatry, and his involvement at ConnecTeen equips him with invaluable insights into what those future conversations with patients might entail.
“For me, the more I do this line of work, the more I feel like it’s what I want to continue doing outside of ConnecTeen once I do outgrow the program. And for me, that looks like wanting to pursue a career in psychology and medicine and wanting to continue this work and continue this volunteering, and not let this experience end in a few years.”
Beyond professional development, ConnecTeen has left a profound impact on Altamish’s personal growth. As he shares,
“I‘d say ConnecTeen has taught me a lot about the person I am and the person I want to be in that it showed that the things I was capable of. I used to think a lot that I was too introverted to really connect with people and that I really couldn’t help them in a very meaningful way. Yet here, I could see that it is possible, that I can connect with people, care for them, and still be an introverted person.“
The most significant impact of Altamish’s time at ConnecTeen and Distress Centre has been the people he’s had the privilege to work with and the connections he’s forged. A supportive network of colleagues and friends who uplift and support you, both in a professional and personal capacity, is invaluable. Altamish expresses his gratitude, particularly to his mentor Ashley, who has been a constant source of support and motivation throughout his journey.
“What’s made this the most special for me is not only the people I connect with but also our mentors, especially Ashley, who has helped me time and time again to stay motivated, to feel heard, and to support me on the lines and off constantly. Being able to work with someone who actually cares about me and wants to see me succeed and be the best crisis responder that I can be has been really significant for me, and it’s been really important, and it’s helped me through a lot.”
Altamish places great importance on self-care, especially as he navigates the challenges of living with depression while working on the crisis lines. His self-care routine centers on showing kindness to himself, recognizing the human aspect of his journey and accepting that it’s okay not to be okay at times. This self-compassion is a core element of his well-being. One of his favorite forms of self-care is indulging in video games, a means of escaping into fictional worlds and enjoying solitary or group activities, which allows him to unwind and recharge.
A changing world
In today’s ever-changing world, ConnecTeen and compassionate volunteers like Altamish play a pivotal role in helping youth cope now more than ever. Given the impact of technology, evolving societal dynamics, and the unique challenges that young people face, having a support system that genuinely understands their generation is indispensable. As Altamish points out,
“Times are changing a lot rapidly with technology, with society, politics, people and being a youth. And being a youth now is so different from what being a youth was a few years ago or even a decade ago. Of course, there will still be adults that can support those people well and try to empathize with their situation, but I think there’s still a different sense of camaraderie that comes from knowing that you’re speaking to someone who’s of a similar generation to you who gets it. You just can’t teach that experience. You have to live it.“
ConnecTeen is celebrating it’s 40th anniversary in 2023! Support the continued work of ConnecTeen by donating now.