Worried teens flood bullying helpline
Published 30/08/2010 | 05:00
WORRIED teenagers have been flooding a helpline with concerns over classroom bullying as back-to-school time looms.
Teenline Ireland, whose volunteers answer calls from anxious youths, has reported a surge in recent weeks due to the Leaving Cert results and the start of the new school term.
So far this year, the volunteers have received more than 8,000 calls from young people worried about issues ranging from bullying to the impact of the downturn as parents lose their jobs.
Bullying is one of the key persistent issues troubling youths, Teenline's founder Maureen Bolger explained.
"Some have been attacked, their schoolbags dumped down the loo and hair pulled. Sometimes it is more mental than physical. The fear follows them from year to year," she said.
"One boy rang to say he had left one school due to the bullying, only for it to start again in the second school."
She said some have reported enduring taunts over their weight and other issues.
Constant bullying can lead to low self-esteem, loneliness and depression, she said.
"Unfortunately some young people don't wait around and it can lead to someone taking their own life," she added.
More than 70 youths under-the age of 17 took their own lives between 2006 and last September, according to figures from the Central Statistics Office. There is no information on factors leading to the deaths.
Bullying has long been identified as a problem in schools.
Around 40pc of nine-year-olds were bullied at some stage over a 12-month period, according to the Growing Up In Ireland survey, which tracked 8,500 children. Most of these suffered name-calling and exclusion, while others received unwanted responses online and by text message.
Ms Bolger called for more emotional education in schools and for helpline numbers to be made more readily available, for example, on notice boards.
She said youths should be encouraged to call if there is any issue concerning them.
She urged schools to bring in counsellors or help groups to talk to students in the run-up to stressful times such as the release of exam results.
Teenline was set up as a listening service for youths around three years after Ms Bolger's 16-year-old son Darren took his own life. The service, which operates on the number 1800 833 634 from 8pm until midnight daily, has received 8,164 calls since January.
Ms Bolger said she believes her son could have been helped if he had been able to talk though his troubles with a service such as a helpline.