This week marked the 20th anniversary of Linka bezpečí, a helpline available for anyone up to the age of 18 (or if studying, to 26) to call at moments of difficulty. Over 20 years, the helpline has answered millions of calls and addressed countless problems, some of them very serious.
“We have specific statistics and know that this year we reached the number of 10 million children and teenagers who contacted us over 20 years. The service is the only free one on a national level, making it indispensable.”
I imagine since it began the service changed quite a bit. Is that the case and have changes made it easier for children to open up about their problems?
“We had to adapt of course to new communications, for example, providing the opportunity to use emails or to char directly with a professional. Writing is easier for example in more serious cases, where it is difficult for a girl who, unfortunately, was raped. Someone who can’t talk about it may find they can say what happened if they write it down. And that of course helps.”
How do you handle serious cases where a crime is being or has been committed?
“We always respect the privacy and security of children who contact us. We make sure they know that it is wonderful that they have contacted us and that they have told someone what has happened. We try to impress upon them the need to tell someone they can trust, someone in their surroundings. We have to contact the police, of course, but always the children know about it and agree. We try and work out a plan with them a concrete plan, to agree on steps to take.”
“That’s a difficult question. Not all problems can be resolved. Sometimes the questions are easier to answer of course. We take all questions seriously, seeing the situation and importance through the eyes of the child calling. More difficult cases, like the one I mentioned, we agree on a plan of steps to be taken. We can’t always know that the story will end successfully, that is the sadness of the helpline. On the other hand, over the years we have gotten 11,000 letters or emails and other messages thanking us, saying we helped them. So, there is this feedback from children.”