Help August 2014

Don’t suffer in silence

Telephone counselling service provides free support

Can I trust TELL?

Q: A number of things are troubling me at the moment and I heard that TELL Lifeline may be able to help, but I am afraid to call. How do I know the people who answer are qualified to help me, and won’t discuss my problems with others?

A: TELL Lifeline is a free, confidential and anonymous telephone counselling service that has served the Japanese and international communities here for more than 40 years. Our counsellors range in age from 21 into their mature years, represent 14 nationalities, and are fluent in English.

The volunteer counsellors are carefully screened before they are admitted to the intensive 12-week training programme, designed to equip them with the listening and counselling skills they need. Evaluations ensure that all volunteers are up to speed in terms of competence.

Training is followed by a period of apprenticeship under the supervision of more senior counsellors, before the new graduate starts answering Lifeline calls single-handed. After that, there is a system to ensure that all volunteers receive on-going support to maintain the ability to carry out their duties.

Phone counsellors never reveal their affiliation to others and callers are never asked to reveal their identities or whereabouts. TELL does not trace calls and counsellors do not discuss anything they hear outside the confidential environment of the phone room.

TELL’s approach is client-centred, which means we listen—actively and carefully—and work with the caller to consider options. We are not an advice service, although sometimes we may make referrals to individuals or organisations that might be of help under certain circumstances, such as to provide legal advice or specialist medical referrals.

No issue is too small, nor too big; we welcome simple calls seeking information to those concerning more serious matters, including relationship difficulties, loneliness, anxiety and even suicide.

If you have issues that are causing you concern, often just talking about them can make them feel less threatening, and sometimes may even resolve them. We’re here to listen. Please call.

After the “honeymoon”

Q: We recently moved to Japan because of my husband’s work posting. We are excited to be here, but I am finding it hard, especially because he seems to spend so much time with his colleagues, even in the evenings, and I am left alone a lot. How can I deal with this?

A: Changes in your life recently have left you with mixed feelings. The excitement, about being in a new culture and exploring things that are very different from those in your home country, is also tempered with a sense of isolation as you attempt to settle into your new life.

The need for cultural adjustment is something many people experience when they make an international move, as you have done.

This feeling may begin with what is called the “honeymoon” stage, when everything is wonderful, moving on to a period of “this place drives me crazy” and, even, to you feeling, “I’m not sure whether I like it here or not”.

The length of each stage can vary. People experiencing cultural adjustment can often swing back and forth between stages, depending on a variety of circumstances.

You seem to be struggling with how to cope and this has left you feeling unhappy with the apparent changes in your marriage, due to your husband’s work hours. You are lonely because you are missing the relationship you used to have with your husband in your home country. Your experience is one faced by many trailing spouses who come to Japan.

The working partner will probably have an “instant” community within their workplace, whereas the accompanying spouse often has to work harder at finding their support network.

Although it is beginning to change, the work ethic here is that managers, especially, are expected to spend time in the evening with their colleagues. This is when much of the nemawashi (consensus building) is done, in order to make sure that work life runs smoothly. Unfortunately, this can lead to a skewed work–life balance.

Finding ways to take care of yourself, and develop healthy coping methods may make this transition easier. Talking about your experience and feelings with someone in your life who is supportive can be a good way to relieve some of the stress and loneliness you are feeling.

TELL Lifeline is another source of support. Not only are the telephone counsellors experienced in listening to people who are in situations similar to yours, but they also have knowledge of resources that may be helpful. TELL also offers face-to-face counselling.