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20 Years, 20 Voices: Child and Youth Helpline, Finland

Child&YouthHelpline
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To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Child Helpline International, we invited some of our members – from all around the world, and whether they are founding members or members who have only recently joined us – to share their stories in this special series showcasing child helplines across the globe.

CHILD AND YOUTH HELPLINE, FINLAND

Finnish children “talk about anything”. The slogan “Talk About Anything” embodies the ethos of Child and Youth Helpline, a nationwide support service for children and young people under 25, established in 1980. Accessible every day, year round, the service operates free of charge and anonymously. Alongside phone calls and chats we offer an online letter service that is available 24/7. The child helpline operates under the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare, one of Finland’s foremost child welfare organizations, with a century-long legacy of promoting children’s and families’ wellbeing.

At the Child and Youth Helpline, we provide an opportunity for children and young people to discuss any topic or concerns they may have. Whether it’s a daily problem, a funny story or a joke, or a serious mental health challenge, self-harm or problems at home, every child is met with undivided attention and given the time they need.

In recent years, one of the most common reasons to contact the child helpline has been loneliness, an issue that is notable especially in hours after school when parents are still at work. Additionally, many children and teenagers mention mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and various fears and worries. Furthermore, discussions surrounding sex and sexuality frequently arise as common topics of conversation.

Our dedicated team of over 300 trained volunteers, supported by social services professionals, operates from three locations across the country, providing compassionate assistance every day of the year. We prioritize the wellbeing of our volunteers, offering comprehensive training, ongoing education, and continuous support during their shifts.

In August 2023, with three years of project funding, we launched a new extended service: the Youth Support Line, where professionals respond to children and young people in distress every weekday evening from 8pm until midnight.

The Child and Youth Helpline has been a member of Child Helpline International since its establishment. Child Helpline International’s global and European regional meetings have been an important and meaningful platform for exchanging experiences and thoughts between child helplines. In recent years, global and regional crises have shown that we need each other more than ever in a changing world.

Digitalization – the questions, opportunities, and challenges it brings to child helplines – is one of the themes where collaboration will continue to be increasingly important in the future.

 

Anne Weckström
Specialist
Child and Youth Helpline

Voices of Children and Young People

One evening, a young adult called the Child and Youth Helpline. She wanted to thank us: the helpline had been an important support in her journey through the tumultuous years of adolescence.

“I had been suffering from mental health challenges, including anxiety and an eating disorder, while my family was going through a tough time. Feeling that the adults in my life did not really see my suffering, and that they were not genuinely interested in the challenges I was facing, I found solace in the support that was provided by Child and Youth Helpline’s volunteers. I’ve been calling the helpline regularly – sometimes more frequently, sometimes less – and now, standing on the brink of adulthood, I’m able to reflect on how the time and attention given to me by the volunteers over the years has supported me through such difficult times.”