First helpline for children launched

By P. Selvarani

KUALA LUMPUR: Six months after its launch, Childline Malaysia, the country's first 24-hour dedicated helpline for children, has received a whopping 3,243 calls from children nationwide. What's alarming is that children as young as 4 are calling about "mental health problems".

Most cases revolve around bored, lonely or stressed children, who have been left home alone by their parents. Some are in the care of brothers and sisters who may be slightly older.

Childline project manager Shoba Aiyar said: "We have 8-year-olds taking care of 6-year-olds or 12-year-olds taking care of 10-year-olds. It is not good but many are from families who cannot afford a maid or babysitting services. And because these children are left to fend for themselves, they sometimes have feelings of fear, anxiety and loneliness and just want someone to talk to."

It appears that children these days experience an entire gamut of "adult" issues. Other problems faced by child callers are abusive or divorced parents, girl-boy relation ships, examination stress, lack of identity and purpose in life, and violence.

One case, for instance, involved a 12-year-old who was so angry with his younger sister for using his laptop that he hit her head with a crash helmet. She ended up in intensive care. -New Straits Times