16-Year-Old Creates a Helpline for Fellow Teens Feeling Anxious During Quarantine

Coronavirus

16-Year-Old Creates a Helpline for Fellow Teens Feeling Anxious During Quarantine

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Being a teenager has never been easy. This is a time when most adolescents feel the need to define themselves and keep up with society, but lack the experience and understanding to do so. They often feel misunderstood by adults and friends go on to become their cornerstones, their lifelines. But this was before Covid-19 forced us into quarantine and separated us from some measure of familiarity. Being a teen in times of corona is just a disastrous mix of heightened frustration, anxiety, and uncertainty.

And QuaranTeen Warmline understands that.

 

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Founded barely a week ago by 16-year old Tara Dave and her friends, QuaranTeen Warmline is a peer-to-peer telephonic support group. While Dave had been toying with the idea of creating a safe, approachable avenue where people her age could find a safe space when they need to simply vent without being undermined, the unprecedented lockdown strengthened her resolve.“This [lockdown] is a unique situation especially for our generation,” Dave tells me. “For teenagers it’s particularly difficult because we’re only just trying to figure our lives out. Teenagers need a space to be themselves without judgment. We thought QuaranTeen Warmline could be that outlet.”

A warmline is not to be confused with a crisis or hotline. The purpose of these peer groups is to provide an empathetic ear to the caller’s daily struggles and give them a space to vent out in anonymity without criticism. The helpline is currently manned by a team of six – Veer Arya, Aanika Manghnani, Nikita Singh, Saniya Jaffer, Kian Khareghat, and Dave – all between the ages 16-18.

They launched on Instagram, and as DMs flooded in out of curiosity, the QuaranTeen team received 80 calls only on day 1. In the days since the launch, most of the callers express their frustration at being stuck at home. Be it lack of privacy, or feeling unappreciated by family members, maybe even friends or simply just the assignment workload amid the given circumstances, most of the problems are relatable to every caller. Luckily, the team hasn’t received a crisis call so far but they are prepared for the worst. “We’ll try our best to grasp the seriousness of the situation but won’t hesitate to connect them to professionals, if need be,” Dave said.

Currently the warmline is active from 4-10pm every day, with each member working an hourly shift. Calls are automatically transferred if one attendant is busy – this allows the group to be attentive towards each caller, without jeopardising their online classes through the day. The team can be also approached via Instagram DMs between 10am to 10pm, for those hesitant to make the first call.

Teenagers need a space to be themselves without judgment.

To the team’s pleasant surprise they were approached by teenagers from outside Mumbai too, Delhi and Bihar in particular. All their callers so far have conversed in either English or Hindi, but the group hopes to recruit team members with other language skills.

QuaranTeen Warmline draws inspiration from UNICEF’s belief in how peer-to-peer support is beneficial for a teenager’s mental health. The team has on board Dr Priya Narayanan, a clinical psychiatrist to guide them. The group had training sessions with Dr Narayanan, where they would brainstorm through different situations. The most important lesson their training emphasised was to let the caller be in charge of the conversation. “We can only listen to them, and reassure them that what they are experiencing is not unusual. I think it’s a reminder they need the most,” Dave says.

At the end of each day, the team members round up and talk each other through any uncertainty during their calls. They hope to be able to provide teens support even when the lockdown is lifted. They still have a long way to go, but empathy can overcome many hurdles.

Teenagers aged 15-18 can contact QuaranTeen Warmline at 91329-13298  between 4-10pm or send the team an Instagram DM @quaranteenwarmline between 10am-10pm. 

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