Mxit helps with HIV counselling

Cape Town - A local social network has partnered with a counselling service to provide real-time help for teenagers who are in crisis.

Mxit announced a partnership with LoveLife to offer text-based counselling to youth on the social network.

"Currently, Mxit has a number of counselling services on Mxit including Childline and Angel which deal with whatever issues come up for youth," Mxit vice president for communications Sarah Rice told News24 about the reasoning behind the service.

"We are always looking for new and innovative ways to connect with young people. Quite soon after launching the call centre, we introduced a 'Please call me' feature to ensure that even when people don't have airtime they can still access a counsellor," said Precious Magogodi, Call Centre executive manager.

"We have also introduced our counselling persona 'Mizz B' who offers support and advice via a column in the Daily Sun, our Facebook page, and our website," Magogodi added.

Pressure

The service will augment other counselling services offered such as Angel and Childline and the application registered 97 000 users after launch and 5 000 subscribers engaged with counsellors within the first five days after the service launched.

Many young people face pressure at critical times and one of Mxit's motivations for launching the application is the need for support of young people under emotional stress.

"From the experience of running text-based counselling on Mxit since 2009, Angel, which primarily looks at stress and depression, sees a spike in activity over exams as young people struggle with the pressure. There is another spike around the December holiday period where tensions around family, relationships and what the following year will bring become stressful," said Rice.

Exam periods are also stressful for children and counselling services are required to help kids deal with the anxiety as exams approach as well as help them accept results.

"Kids get desperate and we have more children who are bored and are nothing to do. Exam periods also see a spike in calls from children managing their anxiety around exam performance and preparation," said Joan van Niekerk of Childline SA.

The LoveLife app primarily deals with issues around HIV and there are currently four counsellors on standby, but Mxit said this number can be increased to 20 if the need arises.

Mxit said that the counselling services will enhance the relevance of the entertainment platform which has 7.3 million monthly active users.

"Having organisations such as LoveLife on our platform ensures that we can play a more meaningful role in improving the lives of our users," said Andrew Rudge, head of Mxit Reach.

- Follow

Duncan on Twitter