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Arabic-language crisis hotline proves popular

An Arabic mental health hotline in Finland draws calls from young people balancing traditional and modern values.

Arabiankielisen kriisipuhelimen verkkosivu puhelimen näytöllä.
Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

Since launching in March of this year, the Finnish Association for Mental Health's Arabic-language crisis hotline has received more than 400 calls. The group told Yle the hotline opened to meet the needs of an underserved segment of the population.

Most callers were dealing with anxiety and depression, often brought on by the asylum process, according to Susanna Winter, a social psychologist in charge of the hotline.

She told Yle that many people waiting for their asylum applications to be processed in Finland suffer from feelings of isolation and loneliness.

"They don't want to worry people back home and want to project an image of everything being alright now that they are in a safe country like Finland," she explained.

This fall Finnish immigration officials called attention to the lack of mental health services for asylum seekers, many of whom are traumatised by past events.

Many young callers

The Arabic-language hotline attracts more calls from young people than the association's Finnish-language helpline.

"Young people want to talk about the cultural differences between their new homeland and attitudes held by their parents," Winter said.

Finnish people contacting the association often seek help for problems that have developed over years, while callers to the Arabic line are often reacting to things happening in their lives right now.

Professional crisis workers and trained volunteers staff the hotline, which is funded by state-owned national betting agency Veikkaus.

This week Yle News' All Points North podcast also delved into the topic youth mental health, asking why more young adults are being treated for psychiatric illnesses today than 10 years ago.

The Finnish Association for Mental Health's Arabic hotline takes calls (also in English) on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11am-3pm and Wednesdays from 5-9pm at 040 195 8202.

11:42: Changed refugees to "people waiting for their asylum applications to be processed"

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