“They lost their jobs, and they need to raise their kids, but they didn’t have any money,” Ozora said. “So, they attempted suicide.”
Most of the calls come through the night — from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. The nonprofit’s 600 volunteers live around the world in different timezones and are awake to answer them. But there aren’t enough volunteers to keep up with the volume of messages, Ozora said.
They prioritize the texts that are most urgent — looking for keywords such as suicide or sexual abuse. He said they respond to 60% of texts within five minutes, and volunteers spend an average of 40 minutes with each person.
Anonymously, over online messaging, people share their deepest struggles. Unlike most mental health hotlines in Japan, which take requests over the phone, Ozora says many people — especially the younger generation — are more comfortable asking for help via text.
In April, he said the most common messages were from mothers who were feeling stressed about raising their kids, with some confessing to thoughts of killing their own children. These days, he says messages from women about job losses and financial difficulties are common — as well as domestic violence.
“I’ve been accepting messages, like ‘I’m being raped by my father’ or ‘My husband tried to kill me,'” Ozora said. “Women send these kinds of texts almost every day. And it’s increasing.” He added that the spike in messages is because of the pandemic. Before, there were more places to “escape,” like schools, offices or friend’s homes.