New Youth Helpline To Provide Teens With Support And Referrals

UNION COUNTY – The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders announced that four Union County school districts will participate in a pilot program for the “2nd Floor Youth Helpline,” a toll-free hotline for middle and high school students.

The 2nd Floor Youth Helpline will be available to students in Clark, Cranford, Rahway, and Union in mid-March. The helpline number is 888-222-2228. The hours of operation are 9 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.

A companion web site for youths seeking support, guidance, and peer-to-peer advice is also available at

“I am very pleased that Union County is able to offer this valuable service to our young residents,” said Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski. “Many young people are facing critical decisions in their lives. The 2nd Floor Youth Helpline will help them sort through the issues and take control of difficult situations before they reach the crisis stage.”

Kowalski introduced the youth helpline as an initiative in 2007, when she served as Chairwoman of the Freeholder Board.

The 2nd Floor Youth Helpline is designed to provide confidential, empathetic support to help youths make stronger choices that enhance the quality of their lives. It is also designed to help youths strengthen communications with their families. An experienced non-profit organization, 180 Turning Lives Around, Inc., operates the service.

The helpline will provide middle school and high school students with support and referrals to help them deal more effectively with family difficulties, school issues, bullying, discrimination, sexuality, bereavement, substance abuse, and many other issues of concern to teens.

The helpline is staffed by trained, qualified professionals, and by trained volunteers.

“The helpline provides young people with an opportunity to express themselves in a secure, nonjudgmental setting,” said Kowalski. “It gives them a chance to explore their ability to communicate, so they’re more confident about sharing their feelings with family members, and asserting themselves with peers and adults in their lives.”

The companion web site enables teens to seek or offer peer-to-peer support, by responding to each others’ posts on a message board. Youth advisors help oversee the message board. The youth advisors also help create contests and surveys to encourage participation in the web site.

Callers who contact the helpline with a mental health emergency or other crisis are referred to appropriate services.

The following schools are participating in the pilot program: Arthur L. Johnson High School and Carl H. Kumpf School in Clark; Cranford High School, Hillside Avenue School, Orange Avenue School, and the Cranford Achievement Program in Cranford; Rahway High School and Rahway Middle School in Rahway; and Union High School, Burnet Middle School, and Kawameeh Middle School in Union.

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