For most children, Christmas is a magical time of year – surrounded by friends and family, the excitement and anticipation of unwrapping presents.
But for some, it’s a time when they feel more alone than ever, when they’re struggling to cope with being ignored, bullied and abused.
New figures released today (20 November) show that in December 2013, trained volunteer counsellors at the NSPCC’s ChildLine bases in Belfast and Foyle carried out 1,275 counselling sessions with children and young people across the UK – many of whom had nowhere else to turn. The most common reason for contacting ChildLine was family relationship problems – anything from worries about parents separating to arguments with family members and wanting to leave home, with 351 children contacting the free and confidential helpline. In the same period, 281 children and young people also contacted the Foyle and Belfast ChildLine bases about low mood or self-esteem.
The new figures coincide with the launch of the NSPCC’s Call for Help appeal to ensure its ChildLine service is able to offer support and hope to the thousands of children and young people expected to make contact this December.
ChildLine counsellor Frankie McBride from Ballymoney, said: “Like me, hundreds of ChildLine volunteers will be spending Christmas Day not with their families, but seeing the other side of the festive season. We’ll be talking to children and young people for whom Christmas can be a truly miserable time, listening to them, providing advice and support and being there for them when they can’t talk to anyone else about what they’re going through.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that ChildLine really could be the difference between life and death for some children this Christmas. Please help us be there when they need us most - a donation of just £4 could mean that a child will hear a voice at the end of the phone that lets them know they’re not alone.”
Craig1 first contacted the service aged 14 after suffering years of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of his mother. He said: “I’ve always wanted to say thank you to those voices on the other end of the phone. They don’t know it, but without them, I wouldn’t be here now. I know how close I came to ending it all – ChildLine was the only thing that pulled me back.”
ChildLine provides a lifeline for thousands of children at Christmas. The free, confidential, 24-hour helpline and online service provided by the NSPCC will be open throughout the festive season for children and young people who need to talk, even on Christmas Day.
But the service needs funding and support to ensure that trained ChildLine counsellors can continue to listen and offer help, advice and support to children and young people, whatever their worry.
There are many ways you can support the NSPCC’s Call for Help appeal – text HOPE to 70744 to donate £4; attend a local fundraising event; make a donation online or why not take part in the NSPCC’s Bobble Hat Day on 10 December.