Bernard Yu

Bernard Yu

Maki Nibayashi

Executive Director of TELL

Time in Japan:
Seven years

Where are you from?
Montreal, Canada.

What is TELL?
TELL is a non-profit, community organization that has been serving the international and business communities since 1973. Our main services are the TELL Community Counseling Service (TCCS), the TELL Life Line, TELL Filipino Line, and educational workshops. The Life Line services are free of charge while TCCS, which provides face to face counseling, is based on a flexible fee scale.

How did TELL get started?
From the very beginning, the people who founded TELL wanted to make sure that the service would have professional standards and follow specific phone counseling guidelines. So, they contacted a worldwide accrediting body called Life Line International. TCCS, which provides face to face counseling, is accredited with the Samaritan Institute in the States, and they monitor our clinical service.

What kind of staff do you have?
We have about 13 working staff and some administrators, and I work on the administrative side. We have a telephone services section, and we also have a database. The database probably has the largest number of staff because we have a lot of part-time commissions there; about 85 volunteer phone counselors.

How do you keep it going?
We keep it going through the support of the international community, and since the Life Line is free, we need donations and financial support to keep it going. Also on the face-to-face counseling side, even though we do charge for it, the method of how we charge people means that probably up to 80% of the people who come here are being subsidized. In other words, it costs the agency a certain amount per hour to provide face-to-face counseling, and if you compare that to the fees that we collect based on the flexible scale, there' a major discrepancy. Face-to-face counseling requires qualified therapists and a quiet, relaxing environment, both of which don't come free, especially in Japan. So when people fund us, it also goes toward the face-to-face counseling side as well as the Life Lines. So we rely 100% on financial support from individuals, congregations, foreign and domestic corporations, and organizations. We don't get any help from the government so we really need constant support, financially, from the international community. We can't continue our services without their help.

And how would the community give that to you?
Various ways. The most obvious way and the quickest way is to make a direct donation to TELL. We provide people with the ability to get tax-deductible receipts in Japanese yen or in US dollars. Another way is volunteering. You can volunteer as a phone counselor, but the difficulty with that is that the training program is intensive. First we screen, then we work on the interviews, and then if the person's right, they can join the program. Once you join the program, it's approximately 60 hours of training over about three months, and then after that, probably about 20 hours of observation to go through. So we are looking at about 80 to 100 hours of work before you can get on the Line. The other means of volunteering is to work on the board with the directors, and also to join our other various committees.

What kind of people come to work for you?
We tend to get people from all groups. I think we can see that predominantly, people who come to us are from Western countries: North America, Australia and UK. But, because we are a service in English, all we require from people who want to join us is a certain level of English fluency.

What kind of callers do you get?
Over the last couple of years, what we've seen is that for the Life Line and also face-to-face counseling, after North Americans, Japanese nationals are the second largest caller/client group. Even though there are similar services in Japanese, some people prefer speaking in English, whether on the Life Line or with a therapist.

What does your job require you to do?
Provide administrative support to the Telephone and Clinical Services Divisions, publicity, fundraising, community outreach and office management.

What's the weirdest thing you've seen or experienced in Japan?
I went to a wake and after eating, then crying, the people I was with started singing karaoke.

What's your recipe for a happy and successful life in Japan?
Try not to take things so seriously, appreciate the lighter side of life, exercise, spoil yourself, and above all, be flexible. If you're having trouble, get the support you need from friends or family. If that doesn't seem to make a difference and the problem won't go away, don't hesitate to seek professional help. There are a lot of caring people out there.

Contact Bernard at TELL, 03-3968-4099, or check out the website:

Bernard Yu spoke to Maki Nibayashi

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