Angela* is a 21-year-old student who turned to the Blue Phone Counselling Line for support with her mental health problems. “I have been sad and listless for a long time: sometimes I cry so much that I start vomiting, and sometimes I don’t have the strength for a single tear, although I would like to cry. I am lethargic: there is no longer anything that would make me happy,” Angela said in a call with a Blue Phone counsellor. Angela had called the Blue Phone because she knew she needed support with what she was going through.
The Blue Phone counsellor helped Angela to normalise her feelings and devise a plan of action. She was taught to use two grounding techniques: a breathing technique and the five senses technique, which help her focus her attention and body on the present moment and to stay calmer.
Important service for young people
The Blue Phone is a free online and telephone counselling service which was launched by the Nova Generacija NGO. The service is currently being implemented with the support of the Programme for Mitigating the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Lives of Children and Families in the Western Balkans and Turkey, funded by the EU and implemented by UNICEF.
Maja Kovačević is one of the counsellors working with the service. She explains that for counsellors the most important thing is for people to feel secure and understand that they will not be judged. “The Blue Phone is an important service for young people in BiH. The pandemic has made it very difficult for the majority of the population to function, and the support that the Blue Phone can provide is necessary in order to prevent even more negative effects on mental health,” says Maja.
The service was launched initially only for children but one of the project’s managers, Saša Risojević, explains that the service evolved very rapidly and with the accelerating impact of the pandemic they had to expand their services to older age groups.
He explains that with increasing interest, they started to miss up to 250 calls a month. He saw that this was mainly due to the service being offered only in working hours. With the support of the EU, they expanded their working hours until later in the evening and now they have only 10 to 15 missed calls in a month. “The impact of the EU support was really significant, as it considerably strengthened the Blue Phone service capacity,” says Saša.
In addition, with the support of the EU they also launched a campaign against violence in the family and raising awareness about the Blue Phone service. As a result of this campaign, they managed to attract over 35,000 visitors to their web page, and the number of children young people and families benefiting from Blue Phone services increased considerably.
Until now, the Blue Phone service has functioned with the support of donors and the initiative of the Nova Generacija NGO team. Saša hopes that in the future the Blue Phone service will be supported also by the government and in this way gain long-term sustainability. “We had a number of meetings and roundtables with representatives of institutions where we presented the Blue Phone service’s impact and results. I think they also acknowledged its importance and we expect that in the future they also will start to support service,” says Saša.
About the project
The Blue Phone service offering free online and telephone counselling is being implemented by the Nova Generacija NGO with the support of the Programme for Mitigating the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Lives of Children and Families in the Western Balkans and Turkey, which is a part of the European Union’s assistance package for the Western Balkans being implemented by UNICEF BiH.
*Name changed to protect her privacy
Photo credits: Blue Phone
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