It's nice to talk to someone who's so good at listening

The German counselling service Krisenchat.de was launched in May 2020 to be there for under-25s with mental health problems during the COVID-19 pandemic and talk to them about issues such as anxiety, loneliness, abuse, depression and suicidal thoughts. Krisenchat has already helped a lot of young people. Co-founder and CEO Kai Lanz shared his recipe for success with us: free counselling round the clock via WhatsApp or text message (SMS) – communication channels that are popular with young people and that they prefer to phone calls.

What prompted you to start your project or initiative?

During the first COVID-19 lockdown, there was an increase in reports of domestic violence, of the negative impact of the lack of social contact on mental health and, more generally, of the emergence of anxiety. However, since the healthcare services that are intended to deal with these problems in Germany are just not geared towards the needs of young people, we decided to set up a counselling service that could reach young people through a medium that they were already using: chats.

How has your project been received? Have you obtained any feedback from the people you helped? (Can you give us an example, if you have any?)

With 17 000 consultations within the space of a few months, the demand for our free, round-the-clock service gives a clear indication of how positively the target group has responded to the project. There is also a very high level of satisfaction with the chat consultations and we often receive feedback like "It's nice to talk to someone who's so good at listening", "Thanks for being there for me" or "It's reassuring just to know that someone is there for me when I need help".

How will you use this specific funding to provide further help in the community? Are you already planning any new projects?

We will use the funding to expand our counselling capacity. Particularly with difficult cases, for example a threat to child welfare or suicidal tendencies, volunteer counsellors sometimes reach their limits. To be able to offer support in such cases in particular, we need full-time psychologists who can devote themselves to the welfare of this group. The funding will go a long way towards making this a reality.

What advice would you give to other organisations in terms of achieving results with such activities and programmes?

As well as having a dynamic team whose members complement each other well and, above all, do not shy away from straight-talking, we would recommend perseverance. Even if things don't seem to be working out at the beginning, it's worth keeping at it and being assertive. It's also essential to attract people to the project.