connect / 2020

Teen Talk

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles

Teen Talk is a free mobile app for teens to seek social and emotional support anonymously from trained teen advisors. Teen Talk supports 26,000 registered app users worldwide and each month approximately 1,500 new users download the app. JBBBSLA trains Los Angeles-area teens to become advisors for the app. Teen advisors complete a 50-hour in-person training that teaches empathetic listening and communication techniques. This grant will enable Teen Talk to train more teen advisors to serve growing numbers of app users.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South LA
  • Westside
  • South Bay
  • Antelope Valley
  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program

What is the need you’re responding to?

With a near-constant attachment to their mobile devices, and a lack of mental health support in general, teens seek mental health support online. A national survey sponsored by Hopelab and Well Being Trust finds that 59% of teens have searched online for information about mental well-being, including stress (44%), anxiety (42%), and depression (39%). Among teens with moderate to severe depression, 90% say they have gone online for information on mental health issues. The survey concludes that “the digital health revolution has arrived for this generation of young people. Technology and the internet have transformed how teens and young adults search for information, share stories and experiences, and connect to one another about health.” When it comes to mental health, teens now go online. To help teens, providers must meet them where they are – and because of Teen Talk, that is happening every day.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?

Over the past 7 years, JBBBSLA has expanded its programs to serve teens (i.e., teen camp, teen empowerment workshops, college guidance. Based on research and interviews with teens, JBBBSLA learned that teens want and need accessible resources for social and emotional support. Over 30 interviews with youth professionals including school counselors, therapists, and social service providers confirmed that a strategy to serve teens facing social and emotional challenges needed to be developed. Given that most youth are unwilling to seek therapeutic interventions due to time, location or cost as well as stigma, JBBBSLA determined that using technology in the form of a mobile app to provide social and emotional support would be the most effective way to deliver these vital services. This modality allows for anonymous, no cost, support where and when the teen needs it, all from the privacy of their mobile device. Teen Talk has 26,000 app users worldwide and 2,500 of them live in Los Angeles.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?

52,240
Direct impact
208,960
Indirect impact

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

The need for mental health resources is serious, given that 7,092 teens living in Los Angeles were hospitalized for mental health issues in 2018 (kidsdata.org). Since 2018, 2,000 teens from Los Angeles have downloaded the app and more than 100 Los Angeles-area teens have become trained teen advisors. Currently, the app is available to iPhone users. By 2021, the app will be available to Android users and we anticipate the number of users to double. As JBBBSLA increases its capacity to operate Teen Talk and reach teens around the world and in Los Angeles, we will be fulfilling LA2050’s goal to CONNECT.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

The teen advisor training prepares teens to respond to their peers on the app, yet the larger goal is to develop a community of teens in Los Angeles that will recreate this supportive community in real life in Los Angeles. In order to track Teen Talk’s success towards this goal, it is necessary to track both the app user experience and the teen advisor experience. Three evaluation methods are being used: 1) In-app technology allowing a “thumbs up or thumbs down” rating of the service by the app user; 2) Monitoring the analytics derived from user engagement; and 3) Outside program evaluator will report on the experience, impact, and outcomes of the app users, teen advisors, and supervisors. JBBBSLA’s vision: 1) Hundreds of Los Angeles teens are trained to become teen advisors. The teen advisors report great satisfaction helping other teens in need of social and emotional support and additionally, they experience increased involvement in their own communities. 2) Tens of thousands of teens in need have access to social and emotional support from peers who can relate to them. Teen Talk is a vital resource to help teens understand and address issues in their lives.

In order to achieve this vision, JBBBSLA needs funding to:

  • Increase recruitment efforts to identify potential teen advisors in Los Angeles.
  • Offer additional training cohorts to accommodate greater numbers of teens in training program.
  • Increase staffing to support increased training and support of teen advisors.

Which of the connect metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Social and emotional support
  • Volunteerism

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?

  • LA is the healthiest place to LIVE

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?

  • Access to the LA2050 community
  • Host public events or gatherings
  • Communications support
  • Office space for meetings, events, or for staff