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Signals for physical or mental harassment of adolescents increase by ‎‎3%‎

National helpline 116 111 is also available for citizens arriving from Ukraine

Photo: State Agency for Child Protection

Everyone sometimes needs a shoulder to lean on and a friend to share with. However, when you are a child or have already entered the turbulent years of maturation, finding someone to listen, reassure and advise you can not only change you, but sometimes save your life. That's why more and more teenagers trust and reveal themselves to a more special friend – a friend who does not judge but shows empathy instead and helps.‎

The national telephone line for children 116 111 of the State Agency for Child Protection received 28,400 calls last year. Over a thousand of them, or 3.3% more than in 2021, were related to children who were physically or mentally abused, and twenty-five boys and girls shared that they were thinking about suicide. Psychologists answer the emergency phone line 24 hours a day to provide support to children and their families.‎

"More than 55% of the calls come from children”, the expert at the agency Georgi Ivanov says. “Their typical profile is teenagers between 14 and 17 years old, and the number of boys and girls is almost equal. Of course, parents, neighbours, citizens, professionals who work with children also call the line. We observe a positive trend for a drastic increase in calls from other institutions – an increase of calls by 54% from the medical staff, by 65% from educational institutions and by 84% from the structures of the Ministry of the Interior."‎

Most often, children seek advice about their relationships because they have a need to communicate. And because they feel neglected and misunderstood by their relatives or peers, they share about family problems and school bullying. The more sensitive ones find it difficult to adapt when moving to a new school, where they feel isolated and misunderstood, and they also look for a counselor.

"Children need to be talked to, we want them to know that the phone line is always at their disposal, but this also applies to any adult who is concerned about a child," emphasizes the expert.‎

When the State Agency for Child Protection receives calls or reports related to violence or other risk, the relevant institutions are immediately notified,  sometimes including the district prosecutor's office.

"If a call is received about a risk of self-harm or suicidal intentions, a team is immediately sent from the police, the Emergency Services, and child protection departments," says Georgi Ivanov. “We follow up on every received signal and provide physical support to solve certain cases until the complete risk for the child is eliminated. But the first and most important thing is to remove the mental tension and calm it down. Because the thinking of children and especially teenagers, who are constantly searching for themselves and entering different roles through idols, through singers, is such that even the smallest problem seems monstrous to them."‎

According to the expert, it is the adults who should give them a good example and teach them that talking and looking for a solution to any problem without aggression is the right way. And if they themselves need answers about raising and communicating with children, they can always call the national helpline. In the year the number of mothers who sought some kind of help through this social service increased by as much as 28%, while that of fathers decreased by 5%.‎

The national helpline 116 111 as part of the global network Child Helpline International is also available for citizens arriving from Ukraine. Despite being evacuated from Kyiv, Ukrainian consultants continue to provide psychological support to the children.

Written by Diana Tsankova (based on an interview of Spas Krainin aired on BNR-Horizon channel)

Photos: State Agency for the Protection of Children, freepik.com
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