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Counselling in the pandemic: mood problems and loneliness

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Nummer gegen Kummer offered support.

“I`m at home and quarantined with my parents. I feel very lonely. I can`t meet my friends and I haven`t seen my grandparents for a couple of months now. My parents decided that it is safer for them if we stay away.”

Situations like this are frequently reported at the German child helpline “Nummer gegen Kummer” (NgK) during the past two years of pandemic. Families stayed at home during the lockdown and quarantine days are still part of daily life. Especially when vaccinations were not accessible, older family members avoided to visit their grandchildren. The pandemic and the related measures have changed the lives of children and adolescents. At a time when adolescents are beginning to test boundaries and form their identities, their daily lives have been marked by school closures and contact restrictions. This clearly has an impact on children and youths and in many cases also affects their mental health. Since the beginning of the pandemic NgK registered an increasing need of counselling. In 2021, 10.163 counselling sessions were conducted at the child helpline in direct connection with mood problems, which is 11,4% of all counselling sessions in 2021 (+2% compared to 2020). In online counselling, 4.924 counselling sessions were conducted in direct connection (this is 38,9% of all online counselling sessions in 2021). The most frequent issues were: feelings of loneliness but also concerns about their own psychological stability.

Support for children and youths at German helpline Nummer gegen Kummer e.V.

Nummer gegen Kummer e.V. (NgK) is the non-profit umbrella organisation of the largest toll-free and anonymous telephone counselling service for children and youths as well as parents and other carers in Germany. NgK offers telephone counselling for children and adolescents (Child Helpline “Kinder- und Jugendtelefon”) as well as for their parents (Parents Helpline “Elterntelefon”). NgK also offers online counselling (mail, chat) for young people. Since 1994, young volunteers aged 16 to 27 are participating in telephone counselling at the Child Helpline on Saturdays (peer project “Jugendliche beraten Jugendliche”). Children and young people can turn to NgK for help with any issue. No matter if it`s a question about love or sexuality, or if they’ve been the victim of cyberbullying. Sometimes children and adolescents want to talk about how they feel to someone who just listens and shows understanding for their situation. In a lot of cases, they have been already coping on their own for quite a long time until they confide in someone. Sometimes they report to have mental health issues like emotional stress, loneliness, fears and anxiety. Particularly in difficult times, NgK is of great importance, as it offers those seeking help the opportunity to talk about their situation. Children and youths can speak to a counsellor who cares about their problems and takes them seriously. Anonymous counselling can help to reduce stress, dissolve feelings of isolation and minimize fears. “Nummer gegen Kummer” provides children and youth with direct and preventive help and in many cases encourages them to approach their problem in Germany’s psychosocial support network.