Last year we opened a phone room in Kobe in an effort to tap into Kansai-based volunteerism, to expand our geographic base of potential phone counselors. [Because for quality control reasons we require phone counselors to work from our phone rooms, we realistically limit ourselves to volunteers who live within 60-90 minutes of our facilities.] Opening in Kobe has paid off; we have graduated three classes of Kansai-based volunteer phone counselors, and we are training the fourth cohort now.
We have around 100 active phone counselors at the moment, and to go 24/7 we need around 120. So we’re getting there. The problem is, every year, a certain number of international residents leave Japan. New people come, but they must learn about TELL, they must learn about our need for phone counselors, they must be interested in volunteering, and they must graduate from our training program. We are increasing our phone counselor numbers year by year, but the commitment is significant; volunteering on our Lifeline is not the afternoon- or day-long commitment required by some other non-profits.
Another goal we have is the launch of a text/chat-based Lifeline service. We believe this will not only allow us to better reach young people but also more quickly provide help to those in need during the darkest hours of the night. Counselors on a text/chat-based Lifeline service will be able to work from home rather than one of our phone rooms, and that will allow us to offer our training to any international resident of Japan, regardless of where they live. We will be able to recruit volunteers phone counselors from Hokkaido and Tottori and Saga and Gifu.
Our Lifeline answered over 6,000 calls for help in 2015, a year that saw 23,971 people die by suicide in Japan, and our shift coverage has improved dramatically over the past few years (from 92.6% in 2013 to 98.6% in 2015). But because we do not have enough volunteer phone counselors to provide any coverage from 23:00 – 08:00, we were unable to answer over 1,300 calls last year.
How can you help us get to 24/7 Lifeline coverage? You can help us to spread the word. Like us on Facebook and share onward the content we post there, if it’s of interest to you. Tell your friends about TELL and our need for phone counselors. The commitment is large, but so are the rewards. TELL is a community service organization that works every day to save and improve lives. One in four people will have a mental health problem in their lifetime, and 6,000 people called TELL for help last year. What we don’t know, however, is how many other people didn’t know where to turn when they needed help, and how many more we might have helped if we had been able to answer their calls during the nighttime.
Thank you for your support!