A Japanese man, who has his own history of depression and loneliness, created a virtual refuge for Japanese teens and adults who may need counseling.
Taking action: Koki Ozora, a 21-year-old student at
Keio University, launched a volunteer-run nonprofit called “A Place for You,” or “Anata no Ibasho,” earlier this year in response to the rise of teenage suicides in Japan, the Associated Press reported via the Washington Post.
- Ozora said the platform was inspired by his high school teacher who became the first adult he was able to trust when he was struggling with depression.
- “Without him, I wouldn’t even be around today. It was a miracle I came across him,” said Ozora.
- Ozora created an online Japanese-language chat service that gives users a venue to express their thoughts and feelings.
- The site, which protects the anonymity of users, is set up in a way that allows more experienced personnel to supervise the counseling.
- The 24-hour platform promises to answer within five seconds for urgent requests. It plays an important role in a country that has around 50 suicides a day.
- Since its start in March, there are now about 500 volunteers from different parts of the world providing counseling to those who need them.
- Many of them are able to respond to calls in the most critical hours for suicide prevention, which is between 10 p.m., until the early hours of the morning.
Messages pouring in: Anata no Ibasho has so far received over 15,000 online messages from users seeking help, which translates to about 130 messages per day.
- About 32% of the messages are about suicide, while stress over raising children makes up about 12%.
- Some users confess to fears about killing their own children. One user expressed self-hate following incidents of sexual abuse at the hands of a parent.
- These users are reportedly stuck in a negative spiral and tend to blame themselves as they are unable to sort out their emotions, said Sumie Uehara, a volunteer counselor at Anata no Ibasho.
- She explains the limitation of counseling through online chats as they can only offer words to help.
- “You don’t ever negate their feelings or try to solve everything in a hurry. You’re just there to listen, and understand,” she was quoted as saying.
- The platform aims to provide a solution to users’ issues within 40 minutes. Such solutions include referrals to shelters and local authorities.