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201 call Shanghai suicide hotline in 1st week

Updated: 2012-12-16 08:02
By Wang Hongyi in Shanghai ( China Daily)

Shanghai's first 24-hour suicide-intervention hotline received more than 200 calls during its first week of operation.

The free hotline at 021-5161-9995, launched on Dec 3, is run by the Life Education and Crisis Intervention Center, a nonprofit organization.

Compared with other similar hotlines in the city, this new line extends its psychological service into late nights and early mornings, peak times for people to reach out for mental comfort, according to the hotline operator.

"We received a lot of phone calls after the hotline was launched. This reflects that many people are needing the psychological and mental health aid," says psychological expert Lin Kunhui, the founder, who is also the secretary-general of the Taiwan Suicide Prevention and Cure Association.

During the first week, a total of 201 calls were received. Among them, 137 calls were "ordinary" psychological counseling calls while 64 required crisis intervention.

The psychological crises were divided into seven degrees by the center; degree five and above are considered serious and needing urgent intervention.

Among the 64 calls that required crisis intervention, 22 were urgent, according to the center.

When receiving the most serious calls, Lin says, "the immediate thing for our staff member to do is to manage to lower the callers' degree of crisis".

Volunteers will contact the 110 or 120 emergency hotlines immediately if they suspect a life may be in danger, he adds.

So far, about 100 volunteers have been trained, and they work in shifts for the 24-hour service.

According to statistics by the center, most phone calls were received between 10 pm and 8 am. Peak times for psychological crisis occurred on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.

"So far, we have only mastered one week's figures. After several weeks' operation, we will sort and analyze the data, and identify the peak periods when people most need psychological crisis intervention," Lin says.

The World Health Organization said that each year about 287,000 people kill themselves in China, while about 2 million more attempt suicide.

The first suicide intervention hotline on the Chinese mainland was opened in Beijing in 2002. Since then, similar hotlines have opened across the country, such as in Guangzhou in Guangdong province, Hangzhou in Zhejiang province and Nanjing in Jiangsu province.

"In Taiwan, a 24-hour suicide intervention hotline can receive as many as 100,000 calls each year on average. But on the Chinese mainland, the number is still lagging behind," Lin says. "In this regard, psychological aid and crisis intervention need to be widely publicized."

In addition to enrolling volunteers citywide, Life Education and Crisis Intervention Center will also organize public education and training activities at local schools, communities and companies.

An online platform for psychological health guidance and suicide intervention is also expected to be operating within three to six months.