New Zealand native Karli Rowland has lived in China for 20 years, first in Beijing, then Chengdu and – since 2007 – in Shanghai. She is Community Center Shanghai (CCS) Counseling Outreach and Admin Manager, as well as Operations Director at Lifeline Across China. At a traditionally tough time of year for those feeling low, we reached out to her to find out what help was on hand.
For people that don’t know, what is Lifeline?
Lifeline is a confidential telephone and online chat support service, providing emotional support for those in crisis or distress. We take calls from 10am to 10pm each and every day, including Christmas, New Year's and other big holidays.
How did you become involved with Lifeline?
After living here for a long time, I began to realize I wanted to give back to the community that had provided me with so much, so I looked around at various organizations and, as Lifeline operates in the area of mental health support, this resonated with me and my interests the most.
Is there a certain protocol for the volunteers taking calls?
Yes, Lifeline volunteers are very carefully trained and follow certain protocols, especially with high risk calls or those from our younger users who may be under 18 years of age.
Do you see an increase in calls at this time of year, when many people’s loneliness can get on top of them?
Indeed, all holiday periods generally see a spike in the number of calls and chats received at Lifeline, and the Christmas, New Year's and Spring Festival periods follow this trend.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the number of calls and what people are calling about?
The pandemic tripled our call volume on some days, especially over the peak times of February and March this year, where calls about increased levels of anxiety, more pressure on people’s living environments and also loneliness from quarantine were the main issues being reported.
In addition, call volume throughout the year is slightly higher than usual as well. Here, the issues have been related to increased financial pressure through job loss, relationship breakdowns from forced separation and the acerbating of already existing mental health issues that are put under further pressure by such challenging conditions.
How can people who want to help get involved with Lifeline?
People who are interested in volunteering at Lifeline can begin the application process by going to our website – www.lifelinechina.org – and using the online system to apply.
You also work for Community Center Shanghai, how did that come about?
Having worked for Lifeline for four years, I came to know of the incredible resources the Community Center has to offer in terms of professional mental health support. Having more affordable mental health care delivered in eight different languages is an important community resource for us to share so that more individuals are able to access support rather than continue to suffer.
Can you tell us more about CCS?
CCS aims to provide a home away from home for the international community in Shanghai. We provide services through three pillars; Community Building, Charity and Counseling.
Our centers in Pudong and Minhang provide a local place for people to come and relax, check out our library and have a nice warm beverage on these cold Shanghai days, and we also have our charity initiatives that provide the community with rewarding and memorable opportunities to give and serve.
The Giving Tree program helps children in need across China, inspiring them to learn to give back and build a socially responsible community in Shanghai. Through CharityLink, CCS provides a platform to match prospective volunteers to charitable organizations in China. We maintain a virtual presence in Hongqiao.
How do people get involved with CCS?
Check out our website – www.communitycentershanghai.com – to learn more information about each of the three areas, and which of those you might like to become involved with.
Are there any other projects you are involved in?
I am also involved in various community and corporate training programs, including the training of Lifeline’s R U OK Program workshop facilitators and the delivery of R U OK Community workshops in Shanghai and other cities around China.
For immediate support between 10am-10pm everyday, call Lifeline’s free number 400 821 1215 or use the livechat service through www.lifelinechina.org, WeChat ID: LifelineConnect or scan the QR below.
For more on Community Center Shanghai visit www.communitycentershanghai.com or scan the QR below.
[All images courtesy of Karli Rowland]