PolishEnglish (UK)

Emotional support and suicide prevention through chat service as a way to improve mental health of youth in the province of Vojvodina

With  the introduction of the chat service we wanted to reach out to young people in emotional crisis (primarily teenagers). This way of communication is very close to them, it is very quick and provides a maximum level of anonymity and confidentiality. This alternative way of preventing crises reduces the pressure on health institutions and resolves the problem of limited working hours of health services (this service is available 365 days a year). As volunteers encourage young people to talk about their

feelings, this concept contributes to the development of healthy lifestyles and habits. The access to the chat service is easy - through our website. People have to log in and then have the opportunity to start talking with the first available volunteer.

The maximum time for a volunteer's response is 10 min. They can call an unlimited number of time - if they feel lonely, desperate, suicidal. They don't get advise about what to do, but have an understanding, non-judgmental talk and the possibility to share everything that is bothering them. They can also get information about other available services for their problems.


Who are the e-volunteers?

Volunteers are from various backgrounds. The only age requirement is that they have to be over 18. They apply for volunteering by filling in application forms, which are available on request. Usually they see the advertisement at the university or through media. Very often they hear about the project from friends or colleagues.

How many e-volunteers are involved?

The current number is 47. We started with 14 (2 for each day of the week) but in the meantime we trained others.

Whom do they address the project to? Who is the recipient?

The target group is people in crisis and those in their vicinity. However, bearing in mind that communication through Internet is commonly used by youth, young people age 13 - 28 are the main target group. It is excellent opportunity for ex-patriots to talk about emotions in  their mother tongue language.

How do they verify the e-volunteers’ competences before they start the co-operation with them?

After the initial selection day they fill in a motivation form. After that they are interviewed by two independent interviewers.  The next stage is 30 hours of theoretical and practical training. After that training they get their mentors who follow their work in the first two months. Each level of this process involves selection. They are evaluated by experienced volunteers. Those who go through all levels successfully sign up for volunteering in the project.

How do they ensure the safety and the quality of the e-volunteers’ work?

We respect the anonymity of callers but also anonymity of volunteers. They don't use their real names online. We all use the same name (Vanja) but callers are informed that behind that name there is a group of volunteers. Volunteers are never alone on duty, they are supported by at least one colleague. The quality of chats is assessed by day leaders and a project co-ordinating team. Monthly meetings help to exchange good practices and experiences. External supervision is useful when the problems go beyond our competences.



Project title: emotional support and suicide prevention through chat service as way to improve mental health of youth in province of Vojvodina

Website: www.centarsrce.org  or http://users.panline.net/~srce/livezilla/chat.php