Coming soon: live chats for drug abusers to reach out to counsellors in real time

Drug abusers who need help to quit the habit will be able to chat live with counsellors online at the talk2SANA online portal.
Drug abusers who need help to quit the habit will be able to chat live with counsellors online at the talk2SANA online portal.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - From July 1, drug abusers who need help to quit the habit will be able to chat live with counsellors online and discuss their problems in real time.

The Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (Sana) will roll this out as part of its latest initiative - the talk2SANA online portal.

Netizens can visit talk2sana.com which will be launched on Saturday (March 25) without the live chat feature.

Instead, it will contain an e-resource platform which contains information on drugs, drug abuse and its consequences. Netizens can also find training materials on drug-abuse matters at its e-learning link.

On Friday, Sana said, individuals who need a listening ear to clarify their doubts about narcotics and the consequences of drug abuse can also make use of this upcoming live chat feature.

The voluntary welfare organisation's executive director, Mr Abdul Karim, said: "This anonymous live chat will be useful for people who are too afraid to pick up the phone to call us or visit us personally for advice."

The chat will be manned by 15 para counsellors - all volunteers who are trained in areas such as psychology and social work. Two full-time counsellors will oversee them.

When it is up and running, it will be available from Mondays to Saturdays, between 6pm and midnight.

Users can also e-mail their questions to counsellors beyond the live chat operation hours and Sana will respond to them within 24 hours.

This is a free service with no limit to the number of sessions a user can have with a counsellor.

The frequency of sessions will vary based on the availability and the interaction between the user and his or her counsellor.

After the sessions, counsellors will make referrals to help users in areas such as financial and employment assistance.

Sana aims to kick off the live chat as a pilot for six months before gathering feedback on its effectiveness and make changes if necessary.

TalktoSANA aims to reach out to young people and help bring down the growing number of young drug abusers.

Sana said that one of the major challenges is the availability of drugs on the Internet.

Another key challenge is that young people are being influenced by a growing number of acceptance to drugs.

Mr Abdul Karim said: "For instance, some may find out from the Internet about the misinformation that cannabis is ok."

Just last month, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) revealed that close to two-thirds of new drug abusers arrested last year were below 30 years old.

The CNB also said that the number of people arrested for buying buying drugs and drug-related paraphernalia online has increased from 30 in 2015 to 201 last year.

Sana also launched its new logo on Friday.

It features an elevated "A" which represents an individual taking flight.

Sana said: "We believe that every one of us can stand tall, rise above peer pressure, instant thrills and self-doubt."