TELL counselors aiding expats, Japanese alike

Tokyo English Life Line, which has been providing free and anonymous English-language telephone counseling for more than 35 years, extends a helping hand to both expatriates and Japanese facing depression, suicide temptation, problems in cultural adjustment, relationships and the workplace, as well as health concerns.

A nonprofit organization, TELL is associated with the Japanese-language telephone counseling service Inochi no Denwa and has about 90 volunteer counselors in their 20s to 70s who handle up to 7,000 calls a year. Depression was the top reason for help calls in 2008.

The service is open 365 days a year from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., and knowledge of it has spread mainly by word of mouth among the diplomatic and business communities, as well as international schools, according to Linda Semlitz, a U.S. psychiatrist who serves as clinical director of TELL’s community counseling service.

In addition to the lifeline service, TELL has been offering since 1991 a face-to-face counseling service in multiple languages that employs professional counselors.

At the moment, counseling in English, German, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese and French is offered in offices in Tokyo and Yokohama, and more than 2,000 hours of service is provided every year, with about 70 percent of it subsidized by individual and corporate donations.

Those seeking further information can call Tokyo English Life Line at (03) 5774-0992