03:51 GMT14 May 2021
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    After the film about the Utøya drama orchestrated by Anders Breivik, the worst ever massacre in peacetime Norway, the Mental Health Helpline has seen a dramatic surge in calls from disturbed Norwegians.

    "Utøya July 22," the film about the bloodbath at the Labor youth camp in 2011, in which 69 people lost their lives at the hands of Anders Breivik, had its Norwegian premiere on March 9 and received acclaim from critics for the way it was made.

    At the same time, the Mental Health Helpline has registered an unprecedented number of calls from distressed Norwegians and their relatives.

    "We have seen a big increase after the Utøya film had its premiere. Now we have at least two to three conversations on each watch dealing with this topic. Also, we are seeing the same increase in the chat service," helpline general manager Aslaug Timland Dale told national broadcaster NRK.

    "None of the characters in the movie were real, but the experiences were. I've been suffering for a long time mentally. Re-living what happened. No sleep, no peace. Live in fear that it will happen again," a typical complaint said.

    READ MORE: Worst Killer in Norwegian History Breivik Claims He Has Remorse — Or Has He?

    "Some of the people who call or write to us say they live in fear that the event on July 22 may happen again. Some wonder what they can do to prevent these events from ever happening again. Many of them say that the events affected their everyday lives and that they feel broken and alone," Dale explained.

    According to Dale, the recent controversy around former Justice Minister Sylvi Listhaug, who stepped down earlier this week following a scandal involving a terrorism debate on Facebook, also spurred more people into contacting the helpline.

    The controversial post, in which Listhaug attacked the rival Labor Party for rejecting a proposal to strip jihadists of their Norwegian citizenship without a court decision, featured a photograph showing al-Shabab militants, appeared the very day "Utøya July 22" had its Norwegian premiere. The timing sparked outrage among the Norwegian public, as Labor members were specifically targeted by convicted right-wing extremist Breivik. The post remained on Listhaug's page for almost a week, before being removed on March 14.

    READ MORE: Norwegian Justice Minister Resigns to Prevent Gov't Crisis Amid Facebook Row

    Norway's Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg issued an apology on behalf of the government for "the rhetoric that hurt people." Listhaug herself apologized for the post during a subsequent parliamentary session, saying "sorry" eight times and stressing that her intention had never been to link to the "gruesome Utøya massacre."

    "Many of the callers said they have a concern about the escalating dark forces out there. When Listhaug posted a picture of her office full of bouquets, many people interpreted it in a way that there are still forces out there that support what happened on July 22," Dale argued.

    Dale stated that it was important for helpline personnel to watch the film, she called "incredibly strong," to be better equipped for meeting the troubled users' needs.

    Before the movie came out, many argued that the time was not ripe yet to re-live Norway's biggest drama in modern times.

    "Personally, I do not think so, but I fully understand that perhaps a lot of people do not want to see the movie," Dale said, venturing that Norwegians would never be able to comprehend the chaos that occurred on Utøya.

    READ MORE: From 'Crass' to 'Devastating': Strong Reactions Over One-Take Breivik Thriller

    "Utøya July 22" was made by Erik Poppe in a bid to describe the "rising threat of right-wing extremism" and received a lot of international acclaim for the powerful message and the technique employed. The film starts 12 minutes before Breivik's first shot on Utøya, where it follows 18-year-old Kaja looking for her little sister. The remaining 72 minutes were recorded as one continuous scene, which demanded a lot of traumatic rehearsal. During the shooting, psychological help was made available to the actors.


    From 'Crass' to 'Devastating': Strong Reactions Over One-Take Breivik Thriller
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    Norwegian Justice Minister Resigns to Prevent Gov't Crisis Amid Facebook Row
    mental health, film, Anders Breivik, Scandinavia, Norway
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