Swedish help hotlines ready for festive rush

Swedish help hotlines ready for festive rush
Photo: TT
Help hotlines across Sweden are preparing themselves for what is typically one of the busiest periods of year.

"We expect an increase in demand over the Christmas period. More people call and need help," said Åsa Witkowski at women's helpline Kvinnofridslinjen.

The helpline is available for women who need advice and/or an empathetic ear.

The national hotline is open 24/7, including Christmas and New Year's Eve. Personnel levels have not been increased over the festive season however, although the service is ready for any eventualities.

"There is often alcohol involved and women are exposed to violence and threats," Witkowski said.

Alcohol, often in excess, is a common part of Swedish festive celebrations and temperance society IOGT-NTO has in 2014 launched a high-profile campaign to encourage parents to opt out of alcohol at Christmas.

The "Vit Jul" campaign – literally meaning White Christmas but also a play on words meaning abstention – has the backing of among others hockey legend Börje Salming.

According to the state controlled alcohol retail monopoly Systembolaget sales of alcohol-free alternatives increase year on year.

"It has become more socially accepted to not drink alcohol," said Lennart Agén at the firm.

The retailer offers, among other things, alcohol free Christmas beer and sparkling wine but has struggled to develop a replacement for the traditional snaps.

"Spirits have their strong flavour in the alcohol and we haven't managed to find products which our customers appreciate, so we have removed them."

Despite the increasing social acceptance of abstention, child helpline BRIS is also preparing for a spate of calls from concerned kids. The organization notes that the number of calls often dips around Christmas but that they can be more serious.

"We can notice that the contact is more serious. Children often get in touch before and after festive periods, with their concerns and expectations."

Kvinnofridslinjen in English.

Children's Rights in Society (BRIS) in English

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