Thursday, 22 Oct 2020

SOS launches text-based suicide prevention service, appeals for more volunteers

SINGAPORE – The Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), a crisis intervention and suicide prevention centre, has officially launched its text messaging service for individuals in distress.

Called SOS Care Text, the service was launched on World Mental Health Day on Saturday morning (Oct 10), following several months of preparation, SOS said in a statement.

Since then, trained volunteers manning the service have attended to more than 1,000 chats from users who are mostly below the age of 30. About 73 per cent of them were female.

SOS said in a survey it carried out earlier this year that 61 per cent of respondents indicated text messaging as their preferred medium for seeking help.

“Unlike other mediums of communication, texting is not only accessible and convenient, but also allows individuals who prefer writing to receive emotional support in real time,” it noted.

“SOS Care Text thus hopes to fill the existing gap in current services and provides an outlet for clients to share their struggles, especially for those who do not have a safe physical space.”

SOS said it collaborated with the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) to make the SOS Care Text service more accessible.

The NCSS runs the Belle chat bot, which provides information about mental health services and resources as part of its Beyond the Label campaign.

Users who express any intention to harm themselves when chatting with Belle are directed to the SOS Care Text service and attended to by SOS volunteers, SOS said.

SOS chief executive Gasper Tan said the need to ensure those in distress have an accessible platform to share their struggles has become an even larger priority since the Covid-19 circuit breaker period.

“It is important to lower the barriers to (people who seek help early). By using a commonly used mobile application, it may be less intimidating to some,” Mr Tan added.

Those who wish to use the texting service can reach SOS on Facebook Messenger or through its website. It is available from 6pm to 6am on weekdays except public holidays.

SOS said it aims to expand it to a 24-hour service, seven days a week, similar to its hotline.

But it will need the support of more volunteers who are passionate about suicide prevention so it can provide round-the-clock comfort to those facing crises, the organisation added.

To help achieve this goal, SOS is appealing for more volunteer applications to support the cause.

Those who are keen to apply can e-mail [email protected] for more details.

Besides the texting service, distressed individuals can also call the SOS 24-hour hotline on 1800-221-4444 or send an e-mail to its befriending service at [email protected]

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