Staircases to Save Lives: The TELL Tokyo Tower Climb


Sunday, September 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day. To raise awareness of suicide, which claims more than 20,000 lives each year in Japan, as well as funds to support its suicide prevention services, the Tokyo-based organization TELL will host a race up the Tokyo Tower stairs this weekend.

Protecting the Well-Being of Japan’s Foreign Residents

Since its 1973 launch, TELL has been a quiet presence in Japan’s international community—but for those who need the services it provides, it can literally be a life-saver. Established as the Tokyo English Life Line, TELL offers mental-health counseling and suicide-prevention services to English-speaking residents of Japan. Since its first year of operation, when its Lifeline fielded 1,016 calls, it has grown into an organization offering thousands of hours of counseling via phone, as well as face-to-face care at a medical clinic and support for special-needs children through a school liaison program.

The vital work done by the TELL Lifeline is handled by volunteers and funded by corporate giving and individual donations. This year the organization launches the Tokyo Tower Climb, a new event to help raise money for its operations, including a planned expansion of its hours to provide telephone care around the clock.

A Challenging Climb

While most visitors to Tokyo Tower take the elevators to the observation decks, stairs are also available. The 600 steps take the average climber around 18 minutes to ascend, but the recognized record is 2 minutes, 6 seconds. This record may be challenged this Sunday, though, when the TELL Tokyo Tower Climb sees its crowd of runners (and walkers bringing up the rear) head up the iconic red-and-white structure.

“Currently, over 250 people have registered for the climb,” says Vickie Skorji, director of the TELL Lifeline. “Most are individuals, but we also have families who have registered, and ten corporate teams.” TELL hopes to raise up to ¥2 million from this event, notes Skorji, with the funds to go toward expanding the organization’s telephone counseling service to a 24-hour schedule and launching a brand-new online chat service for people who need help on weekends.

Given the “English” in its name, TELL was originally designed to serve the foreign community, but the group is an integral part of the mental healthcare scene in Japan, having become a member of FIND—the Federation of Inochi-no-Denwa emergency telephone counseling services—fully 40 years ago, in 1977. As Skorji says, Japanese participants are excited about the Sunday climb as well. “At the moment we have roughly 50/50 Japanese and foreigners who have registered, which is representative of calls to the line.”

Funding Vital Services

The event isn’t just about raising important funds for the Lifeline, says the director, but is also meant to shine a spotlight on suicides in Japan and the need for better support and services. “Later that day TELL will also be holding suicide prevention walks in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto handing out Lifeline cards,” she says. These detail how to recognize warning signs and how to support someone you are concerned about.

The climb should be a physical challenge, but there’s fun to be had as well. Participants all receive a complimentary ticket for another visit to Tokyo Tower—including use of the elevators they are ignoring on Sunday—along with an event towel and certificate. “TELL will also have a prize for the best costume on the day,” says Skorji. It could be the perfect chance to get a head-start on your Halloween costume plans while you help support mental health and suicide prevention.

Registration is open through Thursday, September 7, at the website linked below.

About the event:

TELL Tokyo Tower Climb
Entry fees: ¥4,000 for adults, ¥2,500 for children aged 4–13, ¥15,000 for corporate teams (maximum 4 participants)
Deadline: Register by Thursday, September 7
Entry includes: Tokyo Tower admission ticket for use at later date, event towel, completion certificate

About TELL:
Providing distance suicide-prevention counseling and mental-health care, professional face-to-face evaluations and therapy, and community programs covering everything from child protection to eating disorders.
TELL Lifeline: 03-5774-0992 (09:00–23:00 daily)
TELL Chat: (22:30 Sat.–09:00 Sun.)

(Originally written in English. Banner photo courtesy jun560.)

suicide Health TELL Tokyo Tower