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Children all over NZ have similar problems

Children all over NZ have similar problems

Over 35,000 New Zealand children and young people with real and immediate problems have received help in the last year from What’s Up, a national free telephone counselling service.

And, says What’s Up Executive Director Grant Taylor, seven times that number have rung to “check out” the service, making a total of 112,000 calls answered in just one year.

He said they had anticipated 80,000 calls in total during the first year, so the response they had received showed that such a service is greatly needed.

“The rapid and strong utilisation of this service is a sign that our children and young people need additional care and support.”

Mr Taylor says clear patterns and issues have emerged throughout the country.

“Relationships with others are the most important source of concern for callers. This includes worries about building and maintaining friendships with peers, family problems, and relationships with boyfriends and girlfriends.”

Another major issue that has been identified is bullying, especially for children 12 years or younger, while pregnancy concerns are a prominent reason for teenagers to call.

Mr Taylor says that analysis of the calls shows that the problems faced by children and young people are much the same all around New Zealand

“What’s Up receives calls from all over the country in direct proportion to where the children and young people of New Zealand live. There are no major differences in the issues presented by children and young people in different parts of the country.”

Mr Taylor says the average age of callers is 12 with 89% being 15 years or younger, “But people are often amazed that we get calls from children as young as 5 years.”

Mr Taylor says one of the main reasons for the success of the service is that the trained, professional and fully paid counsellors help the young people to talk through their issues so they learn ways to solve their problems.

“We can help children learn when they are young that they don’t have to be helpless when faced with problems. There is always something they can do and someone to turn to. This helps to prevent them resorting to extreme and potentially harmful ways of coping, or of “giving up” and failing to take good care of themselves.”

An example of how What’s Up can help

Tasha*, 13 years old, called What’s Up over a 4 month period. From the beginning, she was very abrupt, sarcastic and abusive towards all the Counsellors she spoke to and refused to be drawn in to talking about her deeper thoughts and feelings. Eventually, she developed a strong relationship with one Counsellor in particular. With such callers, What’s Up policy is to remain accepting and to shape more constructive behaviour. Even though she continued to be abusive, her Counsellor tried to be consistently happy to hear from her.

It emerged that her mother had abandoned her when she was very young. She had recently been expelled from school and kicked out of home because of her difficult attitude, and was staying with a relative.

One day, Tasha opened up to her Counsellor about dealing with her anger. A few days later a friend of Tasha’s called to say that she had made peace with her family and she had gone back home.

Two weeks later, Tasha called the Counsellor again and sounded completely different. Her abusive behaviour had gone and she sounded really happy. She told the Counsellor that she had returned home and was getting on well with her family.

She then thanked the Counsellor for helping her. She said that she had always felt accepted by the Counsellor even though she was being abusive. This acceptance when others were rejecting her was really important to her. She said she believed the Counsellor could help her to set goals for the future and that she would keep in touch.

*The caller’s name and some other details have been altered to preserve anonymity.

© Scoop Media

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