This article was written in recognition of International Child Helpline (ICH) Day. ICH Day is dedicated to celebrating the work of child helplines and takes place on May 17th every year.
Have you ever wanted a safe space where you could anonymously share your concerns without fear of judgement or being told that your worries are not important? Helplines, not to be mistaken with ‘hotlines’ were developed just for this purpose. In Trinidad and Tobago, ChildLine’s helpline is the only resource where children and youths can access 24/7 support, care and guidance for any mental health and psychosocial issue that is affecting them, such as bullying, poor self-esteem or child abuse and neglect. In this article, we will explain the benefits of a ‘helpline’, and how they differ from ‘hotlines’.
Helplines are not focused solely on ‘emergencies’.
Imagine that you work on an emergency police hotline where you receive multiple calls about gun violence, kidnapping and burglaries on a daily basis. However, upon answering a call, you are met with a child frantically explaining to you that they failed their school exam and are afraid to go home. You immediately interject and inform the child that they called a hotline meant for emergencies only. After you end the call, you sit there and wonder how this child believed that their problem could ever compare to the more serious issues that people are faced with on a daily basis.
All around the world, people experience traumatic and life-changing events. As a result, many people have preconceived ideas about what life issues are ‘important’ and which are ‘unimportant’. This, of course, may cause many so-called ‘unimportant’ issues to be forever neglected. Children and youths around the world are no stranger to having their issues metaphorically swept under the rug. In fact, for a long time, many children and youths did not have child and youth-friendly spaces where their concerns and fears could be listened to.
This is why helplines gained rapid popularity around the world as they provided children and youths with anonymous safe spaces to express themselves. For over 22 years in Trinidad and Tobago, ChildLine’s helpline has been a beacon of hope for children and youths who are unable to share their feelings and thoughts with their families, teachers, or peers.
In recognition of International Child Helpline Day, we urge all children and youths to reach out for support in times of need, no matter how ‘big’ or ‘small’ you believe these challenges to be. We also call on the wider society, especially the corporate sector, to help keep safe spaces freely available to children and youths by donating to ChildLine. Likewise, we encourage a spirit of volunteerism among young people as this is vital for the availability of mental health and psychosocial support through non-profit organisations.
If you would like to access our free, 24/7 services, call 800-4321 or visit the My ChildLine App.