Sally's story

Sally explains how talking to Childline counsellors helped her to cope with a difficult homelife and bullying at school.

Bullies would taunt me and call me names

"I first contacted Childline online when I was being bullied at school and things were getting more and more difficult at home. Dad was alcoholic, and mum and dad’s relationship wasn’t good. There were constant arguments and I’d never know when dad might suddenly snap and get angry. We tried to get help but he was in denial and used to hide the drink.

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"I felt worthless and ugly. I didn’t really take care what I looked like because I felt there was no point and I didn’t want to look in the mirror."

I was good at my school work, but the bullying was so bad that sometimes I wouldn’t go to school and the school would send letters home about it. Bullies would taunt me and call me names, saying nasty things about how I looked. I felt worthless and ugly. I didn’t really take care what I looked like because I felt there was no point and I didn’t want to look in the mirror. The bullies would sometimes follow me and spit on me. I was quite sensitive and vulnerable and became easy pickings for them.

I needed someone to talk to about it but there just wasn’t anyone there for me. I thought my family had enough problems and mine weren’t important. I didn’t tell them if I was upset, I just bottled it up. And I couldn’t talk about what was happening at home with friends – I didn’t think they would understand.


Needing someone to talk to

25648-exp-2024-01.jpgThis gave me the confidence to try 1:1 messaging with a counsellor on the Childline website. I went into the queue and waited, but then when I got to the end of queue I pulled out several times because I was scared. I was very nervous. When I finally had to courage to go through with it, I began talking on the chat about the problems at home. I didn’t know where to start, but they helped me focus on one thing at a time.

"It look a long time, but being listened to gave me confidence to make friends, and now I do talk to some friends about problems."

This confidence also helped me learn to deal with the bullies better. When things were bad, it helped me stop the self harm and feel better about myself. I would go onto the Childline website, sometimes to take my mind off the urge to self harm. I felt so much better afterwards because Childline was really listening to me.

One of the best things about Childline is that I knew it was always there when I felt low, when I didn’t have anywhere else to turn to. Now I feel like I have a voice."

How Childline helps


Childline is a free service for children and young people - here whenever they need support or advice. We've delivered an average of around 17,000 counselling sessions a month since the first national lockdown began.

Childline is here for every child and young person. Whatever problems or dangers they're facing we’re here to listen – 365 days a year.

"I am so immensely grateful that you were there to listen without telling me I am lying, judging me or making me feel worse about myself and that is the amazing thing about these chats, they can save lives."
Girl, aged 14

Children don’t always know who to trust with their worries. Without a safe place to turn, they can put their trust in the wrong person or keep their fears to themselves. Home isn’t a safe place for every child, and the pandemic made even more children feel trapped, lonely, and unsure who to trust.

"I just wanted to say a big thank you to the counsellor I spoke to this morning. I don’t know what I would have done if you had not been there to talk to. You made me feel so much better about myself and gave me hope that maybe I will make it. I am so grateful for everything you have done. I was able to feel like my feelings are valid and that I have worth and a reason to live."
Girl aged 14

Childline gives every child access to free, confidential support whenever they need it. In 2020/21, we delivered 76,000 councilling sessions to children and the young people contacting us for the first time. Childline is always here to listen, whatever their worry.

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Childline is here for children and young people wherever and whenever they need us. Feedback from young people has told us:  

  • Childline helps them feel less alone with their problems 
  • Childline helps them see their problems from a new perspective 
  • Talking about problems with Childline helps them open up with other people. 

Our Childline staff and over 1,200 volunteer counsellors around the UK delivered over 200,000 counselling sessions in 2020/21Hear from Omar, one of our counsellors, about his experience helping children during the pandemic. 

"The volunteers who contribute are exceptional people… [We] are committed to the service continuing because we want to guarantee it is there for children and young people. We realise there is a real need and we are there for them."
Gwenno Huws, Childline volunteer counsellor (Prestatyn)

Children and young people also turn to our website for support online. Our website puts young people first – with games, tools, advice and support about anything from making friends to child abuse. Young people also turn to Childline’s message boards to share their worries with other young people in a safe online space, with over 58,000 posts submitted in total in 2020/21.

"I have been seeing a counsellor at school for the last few years which has helped. I only see them once a week so in between I look at the Childline website for tips on managing anger and stress."
Boy, 13, Childline website user

In 2018 we created childline.org.uk/kids specifically for children under-12, to ensure our information is accessible for young people of all ages.

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The pandemic meant big changes for us all – including Childline. Children needed us more than ever – so we adapted how we deliver our service so our volunteers could continue to support young people safely. As well as practicing social distancing in our service centres, we also created new volunteer roles - answering emails from children and young people - to allow volunteers to work virtually.  

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Between April 2020 and January 2021, Childline counsellors have delivered over 170,000 counselling sessions to children and young people. Mental and emotional health make up over a third of all the counselling sessions delivered, with concerns ranging from coping with stress and loneliness to suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Childline is always here to listen.

Young people also turned to the Childline website for support, advice and distraction throughout the pandemic. Over the last year: 

  • We released new self-help tools to help children cope with feeling low, bored or anxious – including the Coping Kit and the Childline Helper. 
  • The Calm Zone (launched in December 2019), a webpage where young people can go to find calming activities and breathing exercises, saw increasing visits throughout the beginning of the year, growing from 15,300 pageviews throughout February 2020 to more than 10,000 pageviews a week in the last week of April 2020.1  
  • Young people also increasingly turned to Childline’s message boards a safe online forum monitored by our staff – for support and advice from other young people.2

"Most of us go on here because we need help. We’re not happy, we don’t feel safe telling people we know face-to-face, and we feel alone. I honestly thought that not many people must be feeling how I felt, and while it makes me sad to see how many of us aren’t OK, it also makes me so, so thankful that a) I’m not alone, there’s this huge community of people supporting others they don’t even know, just for the sake of humanity and compassion, and b) that all of us on here have the guts to ask for help."
Childline website user

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We want to be there for every child who needs us, no matter what their worry or how they choose to contact us. Children and young people sometimes have to wait for a Childline counsellor to be available. We’re always looking to improve our counselling services and make sure we’re there with them while they wait.

One example of this is the creation of Cubie, our chatbot helper that we've developed with our technology partner O2. Cubie asks important opening questions to children and young people while they wait. It also points them to helpful advice, support and games around the site to try in the meantime.

On average, online counselling sessions take over three times as long as over the phone – and make up around three quarters of our sessions.3 By using a chat bot we can help counsellors and young people by providing them with more information before each session.

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It costs £4 to answer a child’s call for help. Around 90% of our income is donated - we can only be here with your help.4

Donate now

You can help give children and young people a voice when no one else is listening.

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*DISCLAIMER

Names and identifying features have been changed to protect identity. Photographs have been posed by models.


References

  1. 1. The Calm Zone is a relatively new area of the site which was launched in December 2019. Early figures showed levels around 15,300 pageviews per month (February). In March, this grew by 79% to over 27,000 and April saw a further 31% growth to almost 36,000 pageviews with the last week of April hitting a peak of more than 10,000 pageviews in a week.

  2. 2. Message board posts have increased in 2020/21 compared with previous year. 

  3. 3. In 2020/21, the average handling time for an online counselling session was over three times as long as the average for a counselling session by phone. This includes the time taken by the counsellor to record information after the counselling session is finished.

  4. 4. In 2019/20 our total income was £117.6 million. Of this total £93.5 million came from donations and legacies and a further £9.0 million came from activities undertaken for the purpose of raising funds (like dinners and balls, auctions and challenge events). This gives a total of £102.5 million from our supporters, or 87% of all income.