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Calls to an Irish teen helpline soars

CALLS to an Irish teen helpline have soared 60pc in a year, new figures show.

Teen-Line started out with a handful of volunteers but now the service is struggling to keep up with demand.

The helpline recorded 3,961 calls where a conversation of more than five minutes took place in the first nine months of the year – up from 2,466 to September 2012.

The figures were revealed by Maureen Bolger, who was instrumental in setting up the helpline after her son Darren tragically took his life at the age of 16.

And there were a staggering 9,146 contact calls overall to the end of September this year – a 31pc increase from 6,957 in the same period in 2012. This included hangups, silent and hoax calls.

The shocking figures emerged on the day that tragic Chloe Kinsella was laid to rest. The 15-year-old's body was found in a river near her home in Limerick after a six-day search last week.

The service has now extended its hours to 11pm and is open on Wednesday afternoons to cater to the many second level school half-days.

The volunteer base has also increased to 60 people, meaning it has more lines available each night to cater for the rise in demand.

The need for Teen-Line is as acute as ever, especially with the growth in cyber-bullying.

Ms Bolger stressed that teenagers do not even have to have an issue or a problem or concern – they can ring up for a chat with a volunteer.

But she does admit that technological change has contributed to bullying.

"The bullying can start from the minute they put on their phone, to when they are leaving the house," she said.

"(It can go) right through to school, maybe all day at school and on their way home, and onto their computers at home.

"We could do with a lot more Government support. This service is really needed for our young people. Our calls have risen by 60pc since January."

 

TSUNAMI

 

MAUREEN (55) BELIEVES THAT SUICIDE IS VERY MUCH UNDER-REPORTED IN THE STATISTICS.

 

"THIS IS IRELAND'S SILENT TSUNAMI AND OUR GOVERNMENT ARE JUST BURYING THEIR HEADS IN THE SAND."

But she added: "We hear just doom and gloom at the moment, and there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

"I would say to any young person, or any age group, if you're feeling in any way lost or confused, or you feel like there is no way out, if you can think of three people that you would trust and talk to at the moment, talk to them about how you feel."

She also revealed that there were few warning signals in her son Darren's behaviour. "There was no signs of any depression in him whatsoever and he just had so much empathy for other young people," she said.

"He was just a really, really good kid. He wanted to go out there and live life.

"Music was his love. I have a copy book, and in 2002 he wrote, 'In ten years' time I am going to be famous.

'I'm going to travel the world with my band and I'll be bigger than U2'."

That was just one year before his death in April 2003.

Ten years on, and the grief and pain is still fresh. "I never thought for one second his legacy would be a helpline," Maureen said.

 

SUPPORT

She added that she always wondered what Darren would have looked like now.

Maureen, who has two sons Anthony (32) and Alan (30), said the public have been very generous in supporting the service. However, the HSE also provides funding for two part-time positions

The remainder of the staff work on a voluntary basis.


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