I promise this isn’t sponsored by Childline. I swear. If they were paying me, I would’ve bragged about it to everyone.
I’m like 99 per cent of the people reading this article, in that I could never have imagined myself calling Childline. I was the one who made fun of them all the time. The jokes usually went something like this: somebody I knew would say something offensive, and I’d immediately respond by saying ‘0800 1111’. Basically, a lot of us think Childline’s doing good stuff for people who need it, but most of us would never want to dial them up. Because it’s stupid. Because it’s embarrassing. Because it’s weak.
This Summer, I found myself in a really awkward position. Long story short, some guy who doesn’t like me was at a college experience with some friends and I, where we stayed in accommodation for a week. As I’d worried, he continued to harass me there. However, what I hadn’t predicted was that he’d start talking to my friends. A friend that I was reasonably close to suddenly started to become scared about walking around the campus on her own; he’d been approaching her threateningly. To make matters worse, he began to sexually harass her in front of several people. Things escalated to such a point that I didn’t know what to do. I thought that he might attack her or something. I felt like I’d completely lost control when she came up to me, telling me about how she was worried about what might happen.
In the middle of an activity I stood up, asked the counsellor if I could leave for the toilet, and ran outside. It was about 8 pm, and I had no idea what to do. I felt scared, my heart was leaping out of my chest. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t get help from anyone; I couldn’t put anybody else at risk.
Eventually, I did what the title of this article suggests and dialled the 0800 number. I inwardly laughed before pressing the ‘call’ key. But the call that followed arguably changed my life.
The woman’s name was Laura. She was Scottish and, honestly, her voice was just beautiful. I know I shouldn’t be marketing this service with people’s voices, but it was just so calming. She asked me what was going on and, without thinking, I blurted out everything. And, for once, somebody actually listened. She asked the occasional question, but she let me say what I needed to say. And, through her questions, I ended up talking about bigger issues in my life, which helped me to realise that the situation at hand was really quite minor in comparison. I started talking about everything. About how sometimes I feel inadequate because I didn’t have a father. About how Asian men are constantly portrayed as violent forces, which is something that I don’t want to contribute to. And about how I’d been bottling all of this up for potentially years.
At that point I had to step back. I realised exactly what was going on; this guy was never going to do anything to anyone. He had no reason to. But the fact that I thought he would gave him control over me. And Laura assured me that, if it came down to it, I’d be more than capable of defending myself, which was what I needed to hear at that point.
I explicitly told Laura that I could handle myself, but I couldn’t relax knowing that my friend was in harm’s way. So she suggested that I tell the head counsellor to keep an eye on her, as well as all our mutual friends. I followed her advice to the word and, though I hadn’t known her an hour before, it hurt to say goodbye.
That’s my experience with Childline summed up quite neatly. But why should you have anything to do with them? Hopefully, you won’t need to. An ideal world would be one in which everyone could poke fun of Childline in the way that I used to. But our world is literally the worst thing. The human condition is one of suffering and pain, with no real end or beginning, and we’ve had the biggest practical joke in the history of the universe played on us with the curse of our sentience and ability to ponder our existence. Here I am, pressing my skin-covered bones against some plastic keys whilst sat on a floating rock warmed by nuclear energy held within a never-ending void.
So, with all this uncertainty, it can be good to just have somebody to talk to. I haven’t got any statistics to show you, but I can guarantee that many suicides could be avoided if we allowed ourselves to get help.
Sometimes we can feel so alone. Earlier this year, I fell into a period of depression. The same guy was harassing me in school, I’d driven a friend that I was really close to away, and I’d even been advised to leave my job as a children’s helper at a drama academy due to how depressing I was being. So, in a way, I felt as if I’d lost everything that was important to me. My pride, my comfort and my work. And I was 15.
But a combination of talking with Laura and making my own productive decisions led me to realise that I was living in such a small microcosm. A microcosm is a small universe held within an infinitely bigger one, and I’d built myself a perfect Hell in which I couldn’t see the edges of my own little bubble. I’m not saying that our problems don’t matter; they 100 per cent do. But it’s also important to get a second opinion on everything that’s going on. Just so you know that you’re not going crazy.
The only problem with Childline is that, when calling the number (not an online chat), the person picking up the phone is randomly selected. There’s no way for you to talk to the same person twice. So I can’t let Laura know that this punk was kicked off the programme the next day because a counsellor realised what was going on, or that he was banned from sixth form for the same reason. I can’t let her know that I got GCSE results that I’m really proud of. I can’t let her know that I made up with a friend that I thought I’d completely lost. I can’t let her know that the children’s drama academy has taken me back in. I can’t let her know that my little sister looked me in the eyes the other day and told me that she considers me the closest thing to a father that she’ll ever have.
I can’t let Laura know these things. But I can hope that, somehow, through somebody, this article will reach her. And that she knows how much she helped me realise that life doesn’t just come to a halt.
So, in the spirit of Laura, the Childline counsellor from Scotland with a brilliant accent, I’m offering my Instagram account below, so you can talk with me if you need to. About anything. I’ve had a lot of people so far be really open with me about some serious topics; sexual assault, blackmail, and more. You don’t need to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Don’t feel like your issue is too small, either. Some of my issues listed here might seem mediocre to someone else’s. Pain is relative. And sure, there will be people that make fun of this article. There will be people who will make fun of the fact that I didn’t want to fight this guy. But I used to make fun of Childline.
BlackJack, just a guy willing to listen, follow me on instagram.