In 2015 the Lifeline was able to significantly improve our shift coverage, and support to community. The year has seen a 40% improvement in shift coverage that has enabled the Lifeline to provide over 100 more hours of support, handle 400 more calls, and see a 30% reduction in the number of calls that go to the answering machine.
Since the creation of the Lifeline in 1973, the goal has always been to provide a 24-hour crisis intervention and support line, Japan-wide, to the international community. This year has seen the Lifeline mark an important milestone towards this goal, with the opening of a satellite phone room in Kansai, the training (and graduating) of our first Kansai-based phone counselors, and the start of Lifeline service (invisibly to callers) from Kansai.
Our second class of Kansai-based telephone counselors is about to graduate, and we are excited not only about building our volunteer numbers, but also about having hired a Kansai coordinator to help building bridges and support to the international community in the region. Both of these actions have helped the Lifeline improve its support to callers Japan-wide and have resulted in an increase in calls from the Kansai region. Without support from Morgan Stanley and the Kobe Union Church for support with training facilities, this important step into the Kansai region would not have been possible.
As we move into 2016, we are continuing to work toward providing 24-hour support and to extending our reach throughout the community. To meet these goals we plan to develop a Chatline service, in addition to our regular phone line support. Our goal is to initially offer the Chatline on weekends and then overnight when our regular services are not available. Not only will this help us reach people who are vulnerable during the night, but research has shown it will also help the Lifeline better connect and support young people, and callers under 30. In a year that saw more than 26,000 people lose their battle with suicide in Japan, and an increase in youth suicides, providing a 24/7 service that is accessible to all age groups is a necessity.