Support hotline for young people expands online

The 12355 support hotline for young people yesterday launched an online platform as the number of teenagers with mental health issues is said to be rising.

The 12355 support hotline for young people yesterday launched an online platform as the number of teenagers with mental health issues is said to be rising.

The website, www.sh12355.com, has a virtual board for messages from members of the public, it also offers psychological tests, and expert advice and comments on youth-related news. Online visitors can sign up for courses or events on teen-related issues.

On the website, teenagers (aged between 6 and 35), their parents or friends in Shanghai or across China can consult experts on subjects such as relationships, work, education, legal services, and mental health from 9am to 9pm daily. Outside those hours, they can leave messages for the experts.    

The website is also working with the Shanghai Bar Association to provide professional legal advice to youngsters

"We set up the new online platform because increasingly more teenagers prefer to chat online," said Xi Xiaohua, an official with the Chinese Youth League Shanghai Committee. 

"The hotline service and offline meeting still have some restrictions, while the online service can be more flexible for both parties in terms of time and place."

Xi said the website now allowed consultants to communicate at home or at any time with people who need help. 

Chen Xiaoya, a psychologist who works for the hotline, said its expansion online was necessary because more teenagers were struggling with mental health issues. Some were depressed because of pressure from school, their parents and society, Chen said. 

Counselors could help troubled teenagers to overcome their negative thoughts by addressing their personal situation, and encouraging them to exercise more, join social events, work on the things they enjoy, and to take appropriate medicine, Chen said.    

"Undoubtedly the establishment of the new platform can bring more confused youths to us and allow us to help them directly on their questions," Chen said.

The psychologist added that the website would give counselors more opportunities to communicate directly with teenagers, instead of their parents.

"The people we want to talk to are the teenagers, and that can help us to find their psychological knots more easily."

Chen added that some teenagers might have reservations or fears about confiding in adults, making it harder for them to call the hotline. But as teenagers are familiar with communicating online, they might find it easier to voice their thoughts on the hotline’s website, Chen said.  

Since its inception in 2005, the hotline’s team of counselors has increased to 528. They include psychologists, legal professionals, educators and media workers. 

In the past decade, the hotline served about 9.8 million people. It provided one-on-one assistance to about 200,000 people, and its "Youth Guardian Project" has organized 542 classes and events across Shanghai.

The hotline runs from 9am to 9pm on weekdays, and from 9am to 5pm on weekends.

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