"We try to do something constructive whenever someone reaches out to us."
There are a number of reasons why children and young people might call Pro Juventute's emergency number 147. They might be having trouble with their parents, school, love, or suicidal thoughts. Helping others help themselves is paramount for Thomas Brunner, Head of Advice and Support.
What's the number 147 for? 147 is the emergency number for the Pro Juventute foundation, which has been committed to helping children and young people in Switzerland for more than 100 years. "We often face difficulties in our relationships – whether it involves parents, siblings, friends, or managers," said Thomas Brunner who has led the Advice & Support department for four years. For instance, a girl called in tears because her parents were arguing again. The advisor asked:
After the caller calmed down, the advisor left her with this message: "Children often think that they're the reason their parents argue, and maybe you think that, too. And here's what I have to say about that: Children are never to blame!"
We often face difficulties in our relationships – whether it involves parents, siblings, friends, or managers.
Beratung + Hilfe 147 [Advice + Help 147] provides one-time specialized advice around the clock to empower young people to keep helping themselves. This approach is called system-solution-based initial advice. Advisors are people specialized in psychology and pedagogy who also have great conversational skills. Thomas Brunner himself is trained in social education and youth work. "We try to do something constructive whenever someone reaches out to us," he said. Even when young people only call as a prank to test the advisors. Or when they expect a service, such as contacting someone on their behalf.
"I feel dark and empty inside."
Thomas Brunner says that serious concerns include bullying, personal crises, and suicidal thoughts. A girl once sent a text to 147 saying "I feel dark and empty inside. I just can't go on any longer." The advisor commended the girl for taking the step to get help and encouraged her to tell us her address so specialists could reach out to her in person. A 15-year-old wrote an angry and desperate message saying he no longer wanted to be part of his family, "because my father is a son-of-a-b*tch." 147 responded: "Do you think you could call us? It takes a lot of courage, but talking about your stressful situation can help get the pressure building inside you under control."
The most effective and personal way to get help is by calling 147.
This kind of written advice often ends with the sentence: "We are here for you around the clock." According to Thomas Brunner, the busiest time for the advisors is between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. and on Wednesday afternoons, when there is no school, because those are the times young people can reach out to 147 without drawing attention to themselves. On average, the team provides advice to 350 callers per day with two or three of those involving suicidal thoughts.
Young at 26
Generation X, Y, Z – how has the need for advice changed over the years? "The number of fear-related questions has gone up," said Thomas Brunner, meaning fears related to the future, loss, and not being able to meet the expectations being placed on them. Secondly, Brunner says that the age range has also broadened: "People today – as well as studies – consider 26 to still be young and many young people are living at home longer. In the past, people grew up faster and the adult lifestyle differed greatly from that of young people. Thirdly, it has become easier to contact 147 thanks to the variety of multimedia. Telephone assistance started in 1999, but Beratung + Hilfe 147 can now be reached via chat, text, email, and online. Until now, it's mostly been calls. "The most efficient and personal way to get help is by calling 147," said Brunner.
A completely new form of advice is through peer chat. Peer chat advice doesn't involve specialists, but young people who have experience with certain topics. "If someone around the same age has experienced the same problem and got through it, it can be extremely helpful for young people, especially when they know the language to use," explained Thomas Brunner. Pro Juventute trained 12 young people between 17 and 24 to become advisors. They are supported by an adult coach during live chats. The demand for this new form of advice is growing.
The aim is for 147 to become more well-known
Despite continuously developing 147, a representative survey shows that only one in every four people knows about emergency number 147, and only half of them know what it's for. The aim is to increase awareness of the advice service with YouTube videos on suicide prevention, influencers on Pro Juventute's Snapchat, and by having a strong presence in schools. The information available at www.147.ch is constantly growing, so when people search for solutions to their problems online, they might end up on Pro Juventute's page. "Making young people aware of 147 in their childhood and adulthood years is a herculean task given today's media-centric environment," said Thomas Brunner – a task which receives only a limited amount of funds.