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Sunday 21 September 2014

3,000 young people call Childline over 'lonely' Christmas

Published 27/12/2013 | 02:30

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close-up of a boy's face - encouraging emotion
Upset child (posed)

MORE than 3,000 children contacted Childline over Christmas and St Stephen's Day with many feeling lonely and isolated.

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The helpline of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) received 1,450 calls, texts and emails from children on Christmas Day alone -- which was up 20pc over last year's 1,212 contacts, said National Childline manager Margie Roe.

She expects the 24-hour helpline will log even more calls by this morning, as 97 volunteers manned the phones on St Stephen's Day compared to 75 on Christmas Day.

And despite the dedication of volunteers who gave up their festive period to reach out to children, roughly one in three calls to the line won't get answered due to the sheer volume, she told the Irish Independent.

Christmas Day and the day after can be a very distressing time for children, especially if parents or other family members are drinking alcohol excessively, she said.

"We had a lot of calls regarding alcohol abuse. Parents may be drinking too much and arguing, or their drinking is making children not feel safe or comfortable around them," she said.

And while bullying by their peers isn't as much of a problem at Christmas as it is when school is back in operation, she said cyber-bullying continues to be a problem over the holidays.

But children feeling lonely and isolated was the most common theme in many of the calls, especially among those aged from 10 to 13 who may feel socially isolated or feel that it's difficult to make friends or connect with others, Ms Roe added.

Loneliness was also a common problem for many of the seniors who rang the Senior Help Line over Christmas, said spokeswoman Anne Dempsey.

Many of the callers have lost a spouse or close friend or relative and feel their absence even more at Christmas, she said.

A number of callers rang simply because they have no one else to talk to, she added. "We had people who saw nobody."

The helpline, which operates at 17 centres around the country and is run by 345 volunteers, is urging any older person who is feeling lonely or isolated, or who just wants to chat, to contact it at 1850 440444, which costs no more than a one-minute local call.

Irish Independent

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