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Mental Health and Child Helplines

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Worldwide mental health problems are the leading cause of disability. Half of all mental health problems start before the age of fourteen years. Mental health problems in children can affect their development, their school performance, and their ability to live a normal life. The number of mental health problems and their effect on persons’ life can be reduced if they are recognized early and treatment is started timely.

 

Childhood is the formative period in a person’s life. Therefore, the child must grow up in a conducive environment that ensures safety, food, shelter, education, care, and protection. The lack of such a conducive environment is a threat to the growth and development of children. Children exposed to a non-conducive environment feel threatened and insecure which may eventually manifest as a psychosocial problem wherein the child reacts to such situations in unacceptable ways. The child may appear to be anxious, fearful, sad, isolate him/herself from friends and peers, or easily get irritated and become aggressive. Exposure to non-conducive environments at a very young age also leads to poor health, and impaired psychosocial development. Poverty, discrimination, natural and manmade disasters, etc. are contributing factors to such difficulties.

 

Child helpline is an emergency telephone service offered to children and adolescents who are in difficult circumstances. Child helpline works on child protection with different kinds of issues with children such as child labor, child abuse, violence, sexual abuse, trafficking, missing, runaways, substance abuse, child marriage, homelessness, and conflict with the law. Children who have been in such difficult circumstances can call the child helpline at any time for immediate help. The nature of service offered by the child helpline can range from immediate rescue to stabilization, rehabilitation, and reintegration into their family/community. Child helpline services is a multidisciplinary approach including a team of social workers, legal experts, and mental and physical health professionals who can help in restoring the children and adolescents’ physical and mental integrity.

 

The mental health and well-being of children who have been in difficult circumstances is a prime concern in child helpline services. Psychosocial counselors, psychologists, clinical psychologists, or psychiatrists make initial consultations immediately after rescue and follow up continuously to help the child cope with their emotional distress. They are allowed to narrate their trauma stories and validate their experiences without any judgment. They may need psychotropic medication and continuous psychological therapies for a long time. Therefore, professional mental health services at the child helpline services are important for the comprehensive care of children exposed to difficult circumstances.