Teen steps up to provide support for young people during pandemic-fueled mental health crisis

October 21, 2021 - 08:55

The non-profit project BlueBlue Hotline provides free psychological counselling and support for teenagers in Việt Nam

Bảo Ngọc

A group of students from the United Nations International School of Hà Nội (UNIS Hanoi) came up with the idea of a psychology counselling hotline to help young people struggling with their mental health during the long lockdown.

The non-profit project has since provided help to hundreds of young people in Việt Nam in overcoming their mental health struggles.

Three years ago, Ayami Matsumura, 18, a member of BlueBlue Hotline, moved to Việt Nam with her parents from Japan. Due to the sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the family could not return to their home.

During her time in Việt Nam, Ayami realised there are a lot of people stressed from having to isolate themselves from others and the unpredictable situation of the pandemic. 

"We wanted to create a bigger impact and place our focus on mental health. It is a prevalent issue in society that isn’t taken good care of", she said. 

Ayami told Việt Nam News she hopes to expand the project and make it available for English speakers in Việt Nam. A lot of her classmates are stressed from school work and she believes having an anonymous listener would really help disclose their feelings.

"In the future, I also hope to expand the project to Japan as I believe Japan also lacks support towards mental health and I expected the situation to be improved by spreading awareness through projects like these," Ayami added.

Ayami (right) and with students from UNIS Hanoi established the non-profit project BlueBlue Hotline, to provide free psychological counselling and support for teenagers in Việt Nam. — Photo courtesy of Ayami Matsumura

In addition to the hotline, which can be reached on 19009204 (ext. 3), the project also includes a Facebook page and email for those who cannot call or want to consult via text message.

BlueBlue Hotline team regularly hold online group meetings to discuss how to improve the quality of consultation calls. — Photo courtesy of Ayami Matsumura

The project team consists of about 30 members, 20 Vietnamese and 10 foreigners, divided into two groups.

The first group specialises in flyer design, fan page activities and communicating with sponsor partners and media. The other group includes students who have graduated from university or are studying psychology, who provide psychological counselling under the supervision of experts and psychologists.

The BlueBlue Hotline operates 24/7, for teenagers living in Việt Nam to ask and share about their mental health issues. 

Callers do not have to say their name or where they come from. Their identities are completely confidential.

In addition, if someone calls for further consultation, the team will work with hospitals to provide in-depth support for these cases.

Spreading a positive message

The latest COVID-19 outbreak has caused Vietnamese students to spend the most time learning online in the country's history. Students in nearly 40 provinces and cities have not been to school for nearly half a year.

According to experts, long-term online learning brings with it a lot of challenges, especially psychological problems. Teens are facing fatigue, loneliness and stress from being at home for too long with a lack of face-to-face communication.

Understanding these difficulties, Bình Vũ, 17, Founder of BlueBlue Hotline hopes that young people in Việt Nam will not be alone in the process of fighting psychological problems.

"Blue is the colour that symbolises trust. Therefore, I decided to name the project BlueBlue Hotline to create a reliable network for young people to come to when they have “hard-to-say” problems with friends, teachers and family,” Bình said. 

The BlueBlue Hotline team during one of their activities at a hospital. — Photo courtesy of Ayami Matsumura

Bình also shared that she herself has been through treatment for depression, so she feels it is essential to provide mental health support for teenagers.

“Maybe I understand what it feels like to be lonely so I can spend hours talking to young people who are having the same problem. Finding a friend who is willing to listen may sound simple, but it means a lot to people who have psychological difficulties.”

Since being established in May, the project has successfully consulted hundreds of young people.

Bringing the positive message of ‘You are not alone’, the BlueBlue Hotline is anticipated to reach more young people facing psychological difficulties, problems in life and difficult relationships.

The BlueBlue Hotline operates 24/7 for teenagers living in Việt Nam. — Photo courtesy of vtv.vn

According to the World Health Organisation, a positive state of mental health and well-being is defined as an individual being able to realise his or her own abilities, coping with the normal stresses of life and making a contribution to his or her community.

Mental health is fundamental to people's collective and individual ability as humans to think and interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life. On this basis, the promotion, protection and restoration of mental health are vital to individuals, communities and societies throughout the world.

BlueBlue Hotline is an upgraded model of the Vietnamese Child Counseling and Support line 18001567, which was established by the Government in 2004.

To make it easier to remember and get in touch in the case of an emergency, the around the clock child support line number has been changed to 111, alongside other emergency numbers, such as 113, 114 and 115.

With a continuous increase in organisations and projects aimed at mental well-being, the psychological problems of Vietnamese adolescents are expected to improve in the future. — VNS