TELL is a multifaceted, nonprofit organization that has been serving Japan’s international community since 1973. We offer free, anonymous and confidential telephone counseling and information, professional face-to-face counseling and an extensive outreach program.
The inspiration for TELL’s founding came from Inochi-no-denwa, the Japanese-language suicide prevention line. The research into the need for a similar English-language service and the work to make a start up possible fell mostly to missionaries and members of the various English-speaking congregations in Tokyo. The first training (of some 50 volunteers with just 7 trainers) took place in 1972 with TELL taking its first call on April 1st 1973.
In the first eight months of TELL’s operation we answered just over 1,000 calls. By contrast in 2013—the year of our 40th anniversary—that number had risen almost seven fold. And of course the nature of those calls has changed significantly. In this internet age there are far fewer “information calls” and many more demands on our volunteers to help people deal with depression, anxiety, and a host of other issues. Consequently our training program for volunteers has evolved accordingly.
By 1988 TELL was able to extend the Lifeline service to three shifts a day and by 2003 to four. But we still miss a worrying number of calls in the hours when the line is not manned (23.00-09.00) and the goal going forward it to provide a 24-hour service. To this end we are considering a variety of ideas to attract more volunteers and—while maintain the very high standards expected in our trainings—making such trainings easier to manage for both trainers and trainees.
In the years between our founding and now TELL has become a member of the Federation of Inochi-no-denwa; created a dedicated TELL/HIV help line (now incorporated into the general Lifeline); created a Filipino Lifeline (now spun off); is affiliated with Lifeline International; and has received accreditation from the Samaritan Institute in the US. This latter is particularly important for the face-to-face counseling service we began offering in 1991.
From the late 1990s TELL began offering a number of services for children and adolescents and we have continued to build our portfolio of offering for Children and Families, including assessments. In 2009, we opened our medical clinic.
We are particularly pleased that in our 40th anniversary year in 2013 TELL was granted certified NPO status.