Childline prepares to support children during their darkest hours at Christmas
Childline is preparing to help thousands of young people across the festive period – day and night – including many struggling to cope with mental health problems.
In 2018/19 the NSPCC service delivered 7,157 counselling sessions across the 12-day period over Christmas and New Year – with almost 900 of those sessions happening between midnight and 7am.
More than half of those seeking support through the night across the festive period were struggling with mental health issues, self-harm and in the worst cases, suicidal thoughts and feelings.
Elaine Gibson, a Childline volunteer from Essex, said: “Christmas can be one of the most awful times for young people. We hear everything from exam stress, to bullying, mental health, sexual abuse, bereavement; I think I’ve heard it all then someone will ring in and I’ll be side-swiped.
“Those with eating disorders struggle because of all the food around and the sadness from those who are homeless and losing hope is heart wrenching. How could I not volunteer my time for this?
She added: “But I want others to understand that this has changed my life, I’m able to offer a lot more empathy in my own personal life and what these children give to me is invaluable.”
Helping to shine a light on all the children and young people contacting Childline this Christmas during the darkest hours - and the volunteers who will be supporting them - is Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer.
The actor and ambassador for Childline who recently visited the service at night, said: “The calls that came in, to be quite honest, sideswiped me. Within the first 25 minutes there were two suicide calls with counsellors helping the young people through the reoccurring thoughts that were haunting them.”
More than a hundred children and young people received counselling for suicidal thoughts and feelings between midnight and 7am during the 12-day period last Christmas and New Year.
Childline is the only service available to children and young people, whatever their worry, 24/7 throughout the Christmas holidays.
One 13-year-old girl who contacted Childline during the night said: “I feel really down tonight. I have a counsellor who I see regularly and who I would usually go to for support but I will not be able to get hold of them because it is the Christmas holidays.
"I was told I could speak to someone at Childline. I have anxiety and find it difficult to cope and have tried to kill myself before. I don’t want to live but don’t want to upset my family.”
Due to demand and a shortage of resources, Childline is only able to help two in every three children that contact them in December and during the rest of the year.
In response, the NSPCC Christmas Appeal ‘Light for Every Childhood’ is calling for donations and more volunteers so Childline can be there around the clock for every child and young person.
Dame Esther Rantzen, Childline founder and president, said: “Christmas is the time of year we think about children, and most of them are happy, excited and loved. But many of the young people that contact Childline are unhappy, abused and neglected.
"One of them told me: ‘Christmas is like looking through a window, seeing happy families warm and loved while you are standing outside in the dark and cold.’
“For some young people, Christmas can be the hardest time of year, when their problems feel magnified, making them even more isolated than ever. At Childline we must be there for every young person that needs us.
"But to achieve this we urgently need the public’s help, which is why it is vital they support the NSPCC Christmas Appeal ‘Light for Every Childhood’.”
Just £4 pays for Childline to answer a call with a child in need of support, to donate visit the NSPCC website.
To contact Childline call 0800 1111 or visit www.childline.org.uk.
View the full film of Natalie Dormer joining one of Childline’s night shifts here.