Brisbane, QLD, Australia, Dec 18, 2019 -- The number of calls to the Kids Helpline at Christmas has dropped by about 22 per cent over the last decade, but counsellors still struggle to meet demand.
While Christmas is often a time of joy and camaraderie, it can also trigger added stress and loneliness during what may feel like relentless festive cheer.
For children, Chief Executive of youth mental health group, yourtown Tracy Adams said unresolved family issues and memories of distressing events can often rise to the surface.
"The Christmas ideal simply doesn't stack up for everyone," Adams said.
"Many people build up this time of year with great hopes only to feel disappointed if their hopes aren't fulfilled."
Adams encouraged children and young people who may feel overwhelmed to contact Kids Helpline -- the only free 24/7 phone and online counselling service for Aussies aged between 5 and 25 years of age.
The helpline runs over the festive season when other services may close. On average, December is its fourth quietest month of the year.
Data obtained by 10 daily shows the number of contacts to the helpline during December have dropped from 32,890 in 2009 to 25,327 (-22 per cent) last year.
This decline could be due to a range of factors, including pathways to self-help information being more widely available online.
Concerns around mental health and emotional wellbeing account for almost half of contacts to the helpline, followed by family relationships (18 per cent), concerns of suicide (15 per cent) and friends or peers (10 per cent).
Last year, 290,144 contacts were made to the service. But its team of 130 fully trained counsellors were unable to respond to 138,986 of them.
Kids Helpline costs around $11 million a year to operate, with 79 per cent of funding coming from the community.
"We continue to call for change to government funding to substantially increase Kids Helpline funding levels to match the current community-generated revenue,’ Adams said.
She also encouraged parents to think "realistically" during the holidays, and to look out for signs of depression or anxiety among their kids at this time of year.
If you need help in a crisis, or just need someone to talk to, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Published: Thursday, December 19, 2019
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