Long Island youth and teenagers isolated and under duress from emotionally painful issues such as bullying, peer pressure and school demands have a “lifeline” that they can turn to for immediate HELP.
“Kids in crisis sometimes turn to their friends, but their friends don’t have the experience or resources to guide them,” said Lynn Bert, R.N., nurse manager of pediatrics at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, NY, and a mother of three, two of whom are teenagers.
So, Mrs. Bert conceived HELP (Hospitals Empowering Lifelines through Peers), a program to provide adolescents, age 13 to 18, with the hotline number of the Long Island Crisis Center (LICC), which connects callers to trained counselors in real-time.
While LICC has been available in the community, Mrs. Bert says that teens underuse its services either due to lack of awareness of the program or failure to recognize that they need the compassionate help of a trained counselor to cope and overcome their issues. HELP encourages and directs teenagers to store the LICC hotline number in their cell phones—a popular method of communication among today’s youth— and then share it with three friends.
The ultimate goal of HELP, said Mrs. Bert, is to prevent teen suicide. According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center based in Washington, D.C., 15 to 19 year olds hold the highest attempted-suicide hospitalization rates in New York State.
In the past couple of months since HELP has been launched, Mrs. Bert and a team of nurses, joined by a social worker, pediatrician and child life specialist, have educated South Nassau’s health care professionals about the program. They are instructing their colleagues who work in the Pediatric Unit or Pediatric Emergency Department to inform teenage patients before they are discharged about HELP.
“At the time of discharge, nurses ask them to enter the crisis center’s text and phone number into their cell phones and then to share the number with three friends,” she explained. “They, in turn, are asked to share the number with three more friends.”
Additionally, Mrs. Bert and her team have introduced HELP to schools and hospitals throughout Long Island and are posting posters promoting HELP in school cafeterias and hallways as well as hospital lobbies and waiting areas. The poster includes a QR code (which can be found at the end of the press release) that can be scanned with smart phones to automatically store the crisis center’s text and phone numbers in the contacts folder. For more information about HELP, call (516) 632-4039.