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Barnardos’ counselling needed more than ever


Ōtepoti – On 21 September 2001, counselling service 0800 What’s Up answered its very first phone call.

Twenty-one years on, close to 1.5 million answered calls and more than 29,000 answered chats later, Barnardos’ 0800 What’s Up helpline is needed now more than ever.

0800 What’s Up was created to offer a service which didn’t exist at the time: the possibility for tamariki and rangatahi to talk to a trained counsellor over the phone.

Tamariki and rangatahi need to feel listened to, safe and valued. To this day, 0800 What’s Up remains the only helpline in Aotearoa offering free counselling service to children and young people from 5 to 19 years, Barnardos says.

Helplines play an important role in the continuum of support and care for people experiencing mental distress and poor mental wellbeing.

Early intervention approach means a focus on helping build resilience, empowering children and young people by supporting them to solve their own problems, providing tools and strategies before things get too hard.

After 21 years of answering calls and chats, their trained counsellors know and understand the complex and evolving issues that are affecting tamariki and rangatahi, such as mental health and wellbeing, suicidality, relationship issues, self-harm, bullying and family violence.

Aotearoa is experiencing a child and youth mental health and wellbeing crisis and the services to support these are oversubscribed and struggling to meet the needs.

The impact of covid on health, education, and employment uncertainty, as well as the rising costs of living, housing affordability, and other global factors at play means that the world our children and young people are growing up in is full of distressing and difficult challenges.

This is why, 21 years on since the first phone call, 0800 What’s Up is needed more than ever, for the early intervention work they do, but also supporting tamariki and rangatahi when things can seem very bleak.

Over the years, the helpline has kept young people at the centre of our approach. In 2014, 0800 What’s Up was the first helpline in Aotearoa to introduce a web chat service for tamariki and rangatahi.

The ability for young people to have regular and recurring counselling sessions with the counsellor of their choice is unique aspect of 0800 What’s Up which directly responds to the needs of children and young people.

On the day of 0800 What’s Up’s birthday, Barnardos thanks everyone who has allowed the service to run over the years including staff, funders, corporate partners, donors, as well as the young people themselves who have had the courage to call us or jump online and reach out.