“My parents are fighting because of me. I know they’re better off without me,” says a young voice on the phone.
Another caller says, “All my classmates are avoiding me. Nobody asks me to eat lunch together.”
Some voices sound scared or hesitant, while others tremble with anger.
Childline, a free telephone counseling service for those 18 or younger, started 20 years ago.
Callers need not identify themselves. They are promised total confidentiality, and can hang up at any time.
Operating under these basic rules, 2,000 volunteers around the nation man this helpline, handling about 200,000 calls a year. Every day, the calls come in nonstop until the closing time of 9 p.m. The number to call in Japan is 0120-99-7777.
Hitoshi Jin, 57, of the Childline Support Center Japan, noted, “We get endless cases of children who stop going to school after they are singled out for exclusion from group communication on (messaging app) Line.”
The image I see in my mind’s eye is that of teenagers who completely lose their sense of self-worth after they become isolated on social media.
“Callers won’t open up to adults if they come across as over-eager to save them or try to teach them a lesson,” Jin cautioned.
When dealing with troubled youngsters, Childline counselors never lecture them or meet them in person to give them encouragement. Instead, they simply listen to callers with empathy so that they will understand they are not alone even in their darkest hour of desolation.
Thinking back to my own teenage years, I certainly remember days when I felt betrayed by the whole world. But at my age now, I know that there are many adults who genuinely relate to teenage angst and want to be of support.
One librarian tweeted, “If going to school is too painful for you, go to a library.”
The message resonated with a broad cross-section of society, proving that many others felt the same way.
Summer is a season when young people confront new problems and anxieties–about sex, human relations, their future, and so on.
I beg of all troubled youngsters not to suffer alone. All they have to do is reach out for help, which is always right next to them.
–The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 2
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.