A salutary phone call
A unique, round-a-clock free service, ‘Children’s helpline’, has been launched in Chişinău, Moldova. The initiators of the project started it as an experiment, not knowing how in-demand it would be. It turned out to be sought-for to a larger extent.
Children call the helpline 10 times a day on average. They are mostly teenagers (aged 12-14). The themes that are most often discussed with a psychologist on the phone are as follows: conflicts with friends, imperfect family relations, first disappointments in love, exploitation and abuse.
While the government is pondering
“While children have been viewed by the authorities year by year as merely the statistical data, we have created a number of hotline (phone or online) services intended for children, says Daniela Misail-Nichitin, a representative of La Strada International Centre.
“We often encounter the cases of misunderstandings of infantile sexuality, which is a sensitive issue that either can’t be discussed with parents, or the parents don’t know how to discuss this theme with their children. There are also the cases of miscommunication between the peers, in view of their age peculiarity, as well as violence in schools.
The younger children, aged 5-9, also call, often just to talk to someone. “Such situations are a signal for us. It usually happens when children are left home alone. But sometimes such children call at night, which means they feel lonely, they are neglected by their parents, says Daniela Misail-Nichitin.
‘My mom feels too bad and I’m afraid to call an ambulance’
In addition to psycho-emotional consultations, the children’s helpline staff make a point of intervening in the crisis situations, when, for example, there is an apparent physical aggression against a child in or outside the family.
The first words that Maria, 10, said when she called the children’s helpline, were: ‘My mom feels too bad, and I’m afraid to call an ambulance!. The girl wept out that her mother often had seizure and fainting episodes, and she was afraid of them. A consultant recalls that during the conversation, Maria was repeating that it was she, who should be blamed for everything bad that was happening. The girl’s mother suffered from a mental disorder and found it hard to get a permanent job.
The helpline consultants talked to the girl and supported her.They immediately reported the problem to the patronage and guardianship public service. This family is now under supervision of this service and is rendered financial assistance. The child regularly attends school, as well as the psychologist’s sessions.
Another case concerned the child, who turned for help, because he was subjected to aggression at school. “The teacher beats me with a stick, hits me on my hands and feet, that’s how Ilia, 12, began his story-recalls the consultant, who received the phone call.
Once a neighbor called the children’s helpline after she had noticed that a teenager girl posted an unusual message on social media. Afterwards, during the conversation with the children’s helpline consultant, the thirteen-year-old girl reported that she was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend.
‘I want to die’
Another service – the Green Line for suicide prevention, which is designed for children and youth facing difficult real-life situations, has been operating in Moldova since December 2012.
“I launched this project, because there were particularly many under-age suicide cases in May-June that year, says Lubov Cheban, an initiator of the project.
“I tried to find out, whether there was anyone working in this field. In response to our questions, people just shrugged their shoulders. At that time I had just returned from the USA after the experience exchange program and I was filled with a desire to do something useful for the society.
Today, Lubov Cheban works jointly with several volunteers. Every day they save the lives of children and adolescents, who have found themselves in difficult situations.
“One of the most recent cases concerns a girl, who wrote on her blog: ‘I want to die.’ When a child say such thing, it means that she is emotionally unbalanced.
When Lubov Cheban met the girl, it turned out, she was a leader in her group and she said she wasn’t going to give up.
“She is a very talented girl, but her parents couldn’t understand her. They were unaware, what it was like to be a leader and go beyond the commonly accepted boundaries. That situation made me then think about how many children in our country would never be able to become the leaders, just because there is no one in the environment they live, who could see this potential in a child, demonstrating apparent disobedience, says Luba Cheban.
I’ve created a service that I needed myself
Sergey Karajia isn’t a student yet, but he has been a moderator of a very popular social media resource for almost 3 years already. People apply for advice on anonymity conditions.
Karajia says, the idea crossed his mind when he was an adolescent. Then he realized, he had a lot of questions that were still unanswered.
“I think, those people, who are sending me messages so that I could publish them on condition of anonymity, want to talk to someone about how they feel, and thus I help them, says Sergey.
He says, the most difficult was the technical part of it, which allowed making publication of those questions really anonymous. There was a need for the website, but due to the lack of funding, he decided to use two available portals.
This laid the foundation for an unprecedented project in the Republic of Moldova, which he symbolically called the ‘Anonym’.
“As a person grows older, there are many questions that he/she has no answer to. Especially nowadays, when there are so many children, whose parents have left to work abroad. One can’t ask directly: some people, if asked, will not take you seriously, others may avoid answering the question, because they don’t know how to put it.
“Whereas if you ask anonymously on the Internet, you will get a lot of answers, from which you can choose the one you like, or weigh the different answers and understand what the truth actually is, Sergey explains his enthusiasm, though he admits that there were times when he wanted to give up on the project, which now occupies all of his free time.
The resource has more than 30,000 subscribers. Dozens of children, teens and adolescents ask questions or share their feelings daily, whereas the number of answers they receive amounts to several thousand.