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Due to heavy demand, mental health helpline to be available 24/7

Around Christmastime, many callers face loneliness and interpersonal problems.

Puhelimeen puhuvan naisen silhuetti ikkunaa vasten.
The SOS Crisis Centre helpline offers help anonymously and in several languages. Image: Sami Tammi / Yle

Due to rising demand, the Finnish mental health federation Mieli will expand its SOS Crisis Centre helpline to operate around the clock.

Mieli Mental Health Finland said on Monday that its hotline will be available 24 hours a day during the Christmas holidays and on weekdays from the start of next year, and throughout the week later in the spring. The expansion has been made possible by a boost in funding.

This year has been a record-busy one for the NGO's crisis helpline, with many callers unable to get through this autumn.

"Unfortunately we have only been able to answer every fourth call," says Susanna Winter, a social psychologist in charge of the Mieli hotline.

As of the end of November, the helpline had received more than 189,000 calls this year, compared to 162,550 during all of last year.

The helpline will also be available 24/7 around Christmastime, as in previous years. Calls during the holidays tend to be dominated by loneliness and various interpersonal and family problems.

According to Mieli, other common reasons for calling involve difficulties in adapting to a new culture, suicidal thoughts, sudden losses, accidents and violence.

Multilingual support

The SOS Crisis Centre's site specifies that it offers "short-term crisis counselling and guidance for anyone living in Finland including immigrants, asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking and undocumented immigrants".

Besides Finnish, the helpline is available in Swedish, English and Arabic (+358-9-2525 0113), and in other languages through an interpreter if necessary. Counselling is free of charge and may be handled anonymously.

"One's own experience of being in need of help is enough. You can contact the crisis helpline when you need supportive discussion about a difficult situation in your own life or that of someone close to you. A crisis may stem from a sudden event or longer-term sorrow, worry or fear in one's life," Winter says.

A relatively recent mental health issue is climate anxiety, the subject of a recent Mieli report by Panu Pihkala, an environmental theologian at the University of Helsinki.

Mieli, a federation of more than 50 local mental health associations, gets funding from the state gaming company Veikkaus as well as government ministries, local authorities, faith groups and private donors.

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