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Youth Mental Health: How child helplines support children and young people with their mental health concerns

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According to the World Health Organization[1], one in seven 10 to 19-year-olds in the world lives with a mental disorder. Child helplines play a crucial role in supporting these children and young people globally, day in and day out.

Our latest report presents data on the contacts received by 103 of our child helpline members located in 92 countries and territories around the world. Our findings show that, between the years 2018 and 2020, children and young people reached out to a child helpline with concerns relating to their mental health over 2 million times: 2,066,196 times to be exact. Girls represent the majority of these contacts, as they reached out to child helplines 60.3% of the time when the contacts were about mental health. From 2019 to 2020, there was a 40% increase in contacts related to mental health. This finding is consistent with the overall increase in child helpline contacts observed globally in 2020 compared to 2019 (25% to 31% increase, depending on available data)[2][3].

It is clear from our data that children and young people are turning to child helplines when they face mental health issues. Every child and young person has the right to be heard, the right to protection and the right to access essential services, free from bias or other barriers. Child helplines are key in the promotion and realisation of children’s rights globally, as they provide a safe and accessible platform for children and young people across the globe to receive the support they need through immediate counselling and referral services.

Every child should have free and unrestricted access to child helpline services, including particularly vulnerable children

All children and young people should be able to access a child helpline easily and freely in their country. Governments and the ICT sector have a role to play to ensure that child helplines are accessible to all children and young people. Such access should be free of cost and available on a range of appropriate contact methods (telephone, web-chat, etc.). Investments in infrastructure, new functionalities, evidence-based and inclusive counselling practices should be promoted. Child helplines should pay special attention to the unique needs and services barriers of vulnerable children and young people (such as minority groups members, children on the move, LGBTQI+ children and youth). Regular and
child-friendly awareness raising campaigns are essential to ensure children and young people know how to access child helpline services. In this context,
the promotion of regionally harmonised child helplines numbers is crucial. For example, many child helplines in Africa use 116, several in Asia use 1098, most in Europe use 116 111 and several Commonwealth of Independent States use 150.

[1] World Health Organization, Adolescent mental health, accessed on 11 April 2022 at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-mental-health

[2] Pereira, A, Daly, A, & Erwood, S. Voices during the Covid-19 Pandemic, Child Helpline International – Amsterdam, 2021

[3] Petrowski N, Cappa C, Pereira A, Mason H, Daban RA, Violence against children during COVID-19 Assessing and understanding change in use of helplines, Child Abuse and amp; Neglect (2020), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2020.104757

Key Takeaways