SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Children’s helpline Kindertelefoon has been fielding more calls from children in emotional distress during the current lockdown than during the first, research by the charity has shown.
The number of calls from children who felt depressed increased by 21% compared to a year ago, while calls about loneliness and thoughts of suicide increased by a third between December 14 last year and January 10 this year.
‘When the first lockdown happened, children rang us about the normal things but with a coronavirus aspect, like ‘Is it ok to visit my gran?’ But now children are reaching out about the mental problems they are experiencing,’ Kindertelefoon director Roline de Wilde told broadcaster NOS.
The charity talks to around 1,500 children between the ages of 8 to 18 a day, usually about subjects they don’t want or can’t discuss with anyone else. Sexuality is still the most common subject but emotional problems, which used to be in fourth place, has now become the second biggest issue.
There were fewer calls about love and friendship and that is worry, De Wilde said, because it means teens are having a hard time across the board. Calls from boys and children between 16 and 18 have also increased, she said.
Child psychologist Tischa Neve said that while the lockdown was new and exciting the first-time round, children are now wondering whether it will ever stop. The children’s home environment is under more pressure as well, with parents feeling the strain as well and perhaps people around them falling ill with the virus, she said.
Long term issues
Neve said the lack of contact with their peers at school and other social contacts would probably lead to more calls to the Kindertelefoon. It is not yet clear if children will experience long-term problems because of the lockdowns.
‘Children are generally very resilient. But I am worried for those who already had difficulties before the lockdowns. Parents and teachers will have to keep an eye on their well-being. A loving environment will go a long way towards sorting out most problems.’