Local woman driven to start teen help hotline

Amber Settle wants teenagers to have a place to turn when times are at their toughest. She wants them to have someone to talk to – someone other than a family member or teacher.
That’s why the 42-year-old owner of The Pet Palace in Gilroy is asking for any possible support and assistance in starting up a local bullying hotline for teens that provides an “unbiased, neutral” voice. Settle compared it to a “big brother, big sister program,” where local teens have a familiar number to call for support in their time of need.
“We don’t have anything like that in this area,” said Settle, who came up with the idea after reading about the tragic news surrounding the suicide of a 15-year-old Saratoga High School student Audrie Pott. “There needs to be something in place.”
Settle believes a help hotline could prevent future instances involving teenagers like Potts, who committed suicide eight days after she was allegedly sexually assaulted and later harassed — via text messaging and cyberbullying — by fellow classmates at Saratoga High School. One of the three 16-year-old students accused of violating the unconscious female at a house party was arrested on Gilroy’s Christopher High School campus, where the young man had transferred earlier in the year.
“This 15-year-old girl felt that she had no other solution than taking her own life,” said Settle, who is still shocked that a teenage girl would take such a drastic measure. “As a community, our kids deserve more. We have a responsibility to them that we are not fulfilling.”
Settle, who has no children of her own, wants to fulfill that responsibility by starting up a hotline. She has already spoken with President Susan Valenta of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, who pointed Settle in the direction of Kaiser Permanente since it might have grants in place to start up a teen help hotline.
Additionally, Settle plans to visit Community Solutions, a leading South County social services agency that specializes in multiple forms of outreach, to see if they can help point her in the right direction.
“Hopefully, it will start to take shape,” said a determined Settle, who wants to provide something “immediate, local and well-advertised” so that desperate teenagers have that option. “We have a responsibility to them…If the kids had something that was non-school related, unbiased and neutral, it couldn’t hurt to try.”
Those interested in getting involved or offering advice may contact Settle via email: [email protected]

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