Children and young adults placed nearly 21,000 phone calls for counselling last year, according to the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare, MLL. The organisation said that the majority of outreach efforts from young people came as phone calls, but also included online messages and chat discussions.
MLL, which maintains the hotline service, said that the contacts represent a decline from previous years, but noted that there is still a high demand for phone counselling and that not all callers manage to get through to a counsellor.
The majority of phone calls came from younger children in primary or middle school, with 12 – 14 year-olds well-represented, followed by children aged nine to 11 years old.
Logs showed that the calls lasted from a few minutes to several hours, with records showing a marked increase in the number of longer phone chats compared to previous years. In 2015, just four percent of phone calls lasted more than 30 minutes; last year that proportion had more than doubled.
According to MLL, boys were more likely to call for support and they accounted for more than half of all phone calls, continuing a trend from the recent past. However girls were more likely to write in for help with their problems – the majority of online messages as well as chat interactions came from this group.
Boys confused about sexuality; girls worried about mental health
The majority of phone discussions centred on the loneliness young people felt in their day-to-day lives. The records indicated that in general, children and teens wanted someone to spend time with them.
Sexuality, sex and adolescent development have always been the most common subjects discussed on the youth helpline. Last year 19 percent of all calls involved this subject, with 26 percent of boys phoning in to talk about sexuality or sex compared to 10 percent of girls.
Peer relations was another important theme that emerged among callers, with three percent of them calling to talk about bullying.
According to the NGO, boys were more preoccupied with the timing of their personal physical development and sexuality. They sought advice on how to approach a partner in whom they were interested or how to perform during a sexual encounter. The data also showed that boys tended to be more challenging or to use humour more than girls when approaching adults for support. However their interactions still revealed an underlying pain at being left alone with their experiences and a sense of inadequacy.
Girls meanwhile were more likely to seek help to deal with mental health and human relationship problems. Girls tended to most often reach out over depression and self-harm. Their interactions revealed that even the most acute symptoms did not necessarily appear externally, and that there were no adults who were aware of their distress. Counsellors most often assisted girls with finding nearby professional assistance.
For the past few years, young people have also been able to select "other" to describe their gender when using MLL’s services. Children and young adults who selected this option mostly contacted the helpline to talk about gender identity issues.