Volunteers and staff at Childline in Derry are preparing to work over Christmas as children get in touch on issues including sexual abuse, family problems, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
The free and confidential NSPCC-run helpline is open to help children 365 days a year and demand is high across the festive period for the advice provided by its specially-trained counsellors at its 12 bases across the UK.
Across four of the main festive days last year – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve 2016 and New Year’s Day 2017 – Childline across the UK delivered 2,490 counselling sessions, up from 2,353 on the same days the previous year.
Of these counselling sessions, at least 54 in 2016-17 were carried out with children contacting Childline from Northern Ireland. Volunteers at Childline’s two bases in Belfast and Foyle will be among those working over the festive period, including on Christmas Day itself.
On Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day last year, volunteers from Belfast and Foyle carried out 444 counselling sessions with children from across the UK, having carried out 312 on the same days in 2014/15.
Children’s mental and emotional health was the most frequently-expressed concern faced by Childline counsellors over the festive period, followed by family relationships and suicidal feelings.
Georgina McGlinchey, Service Manager at Childline’s Foyle base, who is working across the festive period, said:
“For many children they won’t have a Christmas or be able to celebrate so my goal is to help them feel that they are not alone. Christmas is as busy for us as any other time of the year and the concerns of children are the same – they are contacting us in their hundreds about mental or emotional health concerns, family relationships, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and sexual abuse.”
To support the NSPCC’s Christmas campaign, text ‘NSPCC 4’ to 70744 to donate £4, or visit www.nspcc.org.uk.