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NI Childline volunteer calls on public to make this a better year for children


Over 900 Childline contacts on mental health from Northern Ireland since start of lockdown restrictions

· Northern Ireland Childline volunteer calls on the public to take on 2021 to help make this a better year for children

· Increase in monthly average number of counselling sessions about mental health from children aged 16-18 from Northern Ireland

A Childline volunteer from Belfast is calling on others to share their time with young people in need as new figures show more than 900 counselling sessions on mental health have been delivered to children from Northern Ireland since the start of the first lockdown.

The data from the NSPCC-run service reveals that there were nearly 55,000 counselling sessions across the UK that were focused on this issue and also a rise in the number of 16-18 year olds getting in touch from Northern Ireland.

Childline counselling is delivered by volunteers and in response to these latest figures and with COVID restrictions continuing, the service is urgently appealing to those who can spare four hours one evening a week or at the weekend to volunteer, so Childline can be here for children when they need us the most.

40 year old Aideen Duggan, a mum of two children who lives in Belfast, has been volunteering for the service for 18 months and is urging other people to consider giving their time in 2021:

“I joined Childline, which is part of the NSPCC, in July 2019 after I came across an advert on social media looking for volunteers. It prompted me to look at what the NSPCC does as a charity and as a mum myself, their work really stood out to me. I felt inspired to apply. I had no formal counselling experience and was nervous at the prospect of working with young people, especially those at risk. However, I needn’t have worried as the training programme Childline provides is incredibly in-depth and the support is second to none.

“I still sit during my shifts in awe as I listen to the work that is carried out. As a mum, my time volunteering has taught me patience and empathy. No shift is ever the same and contact can be tough. Although, despite how challenging it can be, I get such a huge sense of fulfilment knowing I have contributed to empowering young people to fulfil their potential and knowing I am part of the fight in ending child cruelty.”

She concludes: “If you are in a position where you can offer four hours per week of your time, please consider volunteering for the NSPCC. They do such important work and many contacts from young people at risk still go answered and you could help relieve that pressure. You will not look back.”

The NSPCC is warning about the devastating mental health impact of the pandemic on children as these new figures reveal that 929 counselling sessions, where mental health and loneliness were main concerns, were undertaken with children from Northern Ireland between April and December last year. And since the start of the first lockdown, the monthly average of contacts from young people on this issue aged 16-18 has risen by 30 per cent.

With schools closed to the majority of pupils until at least mid-February and the whole of the UK in lockdown, Childline has never been more important as a source of support for young people who are struggling. Now more than ever, it is essential that children are not left isolated, alone and unsupported.


Over the past ten months, the NSPCC-run service’s trained counsellors have heard first-hand the devastating impact that the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic have had on young people’s mental health.


Children who contacted Childline’s trained counsellors about their mental health spoke about concerns including loneliness, low mood, low self-esteem, depression and anxiety.


Some have been feeling isolated and overwhelmed due to concerns about family members catching the virus, or school closures and cancelled exams - while others have felt cut off from support networks and are missing family and friends.


One girl aged 16 who contacted Childline said: “I feel really sad and lonely. I need to talk to someone because I don’t really have anyone right now. I am really struggling with the whole isolation thing. Most days I find myself just lost in my own thoughts and feeling numb. I am classed as a vulnerable person, so my isolation lasts for 12 weeks, which seems like a lifetime.”


Since the first lockdown last year, mental health has remained the top concern that children and young people talked to Childline about. The service has delivered between 5000 to 7000 counselling sessions, to young people across the UK, every month on this issue with the numbers fluctuating throughout the year as the situation changes and Covid restrictions were lifted and re-imposed. Since the latest national lockdown many children have been reaching out and talking about this and Childline is continuing to support them with their worries.

During the pandemic, Childline has continued to adapt to ensure it can still be here for children including developing online training so volunteers can answer emails from young people remotely. However, despite this, since last March volunteer numbers have dropped by 40%.

Volunteering for Childline is just one of the ways to help make 2021 a better year for children.


Despite, the latest national lockdown, Childline will remain open and staff and volunteers have been given key worker status to continue their vital work. Sparing a few hours, one evening a week or at the weekend volunteering at a local Childline base can help ensure Childline continues to support children who often have nowhere to turn.


But there is also a range of other ways to support the charity, including taking on a sponsored challenge, Kick the Caffeine, or fundraising in the community.


Childline Founder and President, Dame Esther Rantzen said:


“With schools now shut again and children spending more time behind closed doors, it is absolutely imperative that Childline is there for them. Many young people, especially those in unsafe homes, are feeling desperately anxious and depressed. School can be the only safe haven they know, and without that support they feel entirely alone. For them, Childline is literally a life-line. But the service urgently needs more volunteers to listen to and support children, and more funds to pay for their calls and on-line contacts, and for that we depend upon the generosity and compassion of the public. It is the NSPCC’s mission to make 2021 a better year for children, and with your help we can make this dream a reality.”

The NSPCC has been supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery who provided crucial funding of £1,000,000 to Childline last year, the equivalent of running the service for an entire month.

Children can call Childline on 0800 11 11 from 7.30am to 3.30 am from Monday to Friday or 9am to 3.30am on weekends. Or they can get in touch via

www.childline.org.uk

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering for Childline, please contact, for Belfast heather.cardosi@nspcc.org.uk or for Foyle, amanda.doherty@nspcc.org.uk



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