Helsinki, Finland, Feb 8, 2021 -- A national mental health helpline for young people received about 170,000 contacts last year, representing a 25 percent increase on the previous year.
However, only one in five contacts to the Sekasin chat service--which is jointly run by Mental Health Finland and Red Cross Finland--received a response as the number of volunteers has not increased in line with the need for assistance.
"Often when I log in to the service and see the number in the queues, I wonder anxiously who would have time to help all these young people. However, in a couple of hours, I only have time to talk to two or three," Sekasin volunteer Joona Rontu told Yle. "I would like to have more on-call staff and for more people to get involved in this activity. That would be paramount now that I know how many young people need that help."
The anonymous Sekasin chat provides a natural and easy way for many young people to seek help, Rontu added, as the threshold to talk on the phone to a stranger can be insurmountably high.
"The issues can be particularly embarrassing or frightening things, such as those related to sexuality or domestic violence," explained Rontu, who has been a volunteer at Sekasin-chat for two and a half years.
The topics most commonly discussed in the chat are related to school, interpersonal relationships, and the coronavirus, Rontu added, but issues related to self-harm also come up regularly.
According to youth worker Merja Haavisto, the plight of young people is reflected in the growing number of contacts to youth-focused organisations, and the situation is now worse than before.
"Our young people are at high risk of exclusion, and it is felt that this pandemic and the social situation is further marginalising them, which raises fears and even suicidal thoughts." Haavisto said.
Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Published: Wednesday, February 10, 2021
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