‘You make a difference interacting with them’

ALAN OATES is a student, an overqualified barman, and one night a week, a potential lifeline for children struggling with life.

The Dubliner has been volunteering for the Childline and Teentxt email service for almost three years, and gives one night — or four hours — a week, during which he encounters young people making contact regarding serious problems they are enduring in their lives.

“We have the public/private emails and one-to-one messaging, so there are three different ways for them to get in contact with us,” Alan said.

“I could spend some time looking at one email, because the child has put a lot of time into writing it. I could spend an hour looking at one email, or it could be 10 in a night.”

He said the rise in the number of email contacts referring to mental health issues, including self-harm and suicide, had grabbed his attention and that of his colleagues.

In addition, many of the emails can be hard to comprehend, with children and teenagers expressing their hurt, fears and concerns.

“It can’t be easy, it’s never going to be easy. But when you are interacting with them you know you are making a difference, that I was the one person listening.

“It would keep you going.”


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