“We’re just here to listen. No call is ever the same”
Christmas, exam time and other important dates are among the busiest times when children and young people reach out for someone to talk to, according to the Childline volunteer.
“It’s this real jarring uncertainty about what’s going on,” John, from Lucan in Co. Dublin, told the Sunday World.
“The problems that kids would have had with Leaving Cert, identity, or family problems, they’re still there.
“In many cases, they’re almost exacerbated because of Covid, on top of absolutely everything else the kid has to go through in their life, and their development.
“It’s more the effects of it, going to school, trying to make friends.”
Traditionally, big dates like Christmas Eve, Father’s Day or Mother’s Day can also be challenging for kids and young people who might be experiencing bereavement or family difficulties.
“Christmas will be a really busy time for us in Childline,” said John.
“I was on Christmas Eve shifts – I do it every year – and they’re particularly tough in terms of the calls you can get, a lot of emotional calls in that sense.
“If they have a parent who’s missing, or a death in the family recently, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, I have a lot of ‘It’s my first Mother’s Day without my mum, Father’s Day without my dad.’
“Not one situation is ever the same, not one call is ever the same.
“You have so many different emotions and so many different people.
“We don’t assume anything when you come on the call.
“And then the exam season is really busy for us in Childline, especially the actual Leaving Cert and Junior Cert themselves.”
Childline’s latest annual report showed that almost 165,000 calls were received and when online live chat and texts are included, there were 192,786 contacts in total.
The most common topics spoken about by children were everyday life, family relationships, mental and emotional health, sex, relationships, puberty, friendships and peer relationships.
This year the organisation also began offering digital self-care programmes as an additional resource. This was in response to a high level of demands for support around anxiety.
John has a masters degree in applied psychology and underwent extensive training before volunteering as a Childline listener in 2019.
“We’re just here to listen,” he said. “We’re just here to have a chat with you and I think that in itself is huge. I think it’s absolutely important for us to have a service like this in Ireland. It’s unique.”
Childline is one of a number of Irish charities set to benefit from Woodie’s Heroes campaign, which continues until August 13.
Over the last seven years, Woodie’s Heroes has already raised €2.5 million for Irish children’s charities.