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Requests for children's counselling are increasing at an exponential rate, and referrals continue to come in even as schools close for the summer, and the year draws to a close.
As a successful venture, providing professional counselling for children, on-site, in Primary and Intermediate Schools, ChatBus has found itself in great demand, and has outgrown its resources.
During 2020, ChatBus has worked in 26 Primary and Intermediate Schools across Dunedin, Mosgiel and Milton. The eight ChatBus counsellors have worked with 1,255 children during the school year. Lockdown provided some challenges as counsellors learned how to provide electronic sessions via Zoom, and they continued to be available to those who needed extra support over that time.
Recent events in NZ have impacted children in many ways, with the most significant being an increase in anxiety. Children who previously coped well with the challenges of life, often now dissolve into tears when challenges arise. Some have experienced significant separation anxiety, struggling to maintain school attendance, because that meant separating from a parent, and the security provided by that relationship. For others, who feel more secure coming to school, they live with fears of global disasters, fears of losing a family member, or being left alone to survive, and many children know far more than their young brains can tolerate (family finances, job situations, mental health of parents).
The talk of self harm and suicide ideation is reaching to children as young as eight years old.
Often they don’t talk about these fears to parents because they don’t want to add to the stress of their parents. For others, they feel as though their parents don’t really care because they are busy with work, or spend much of their home time on electronic devices.
Many children escape their pain by engaging with electronic devices themselves. In this world they find others who accept them (or so it seems) and have things in common. They play games together and escape the challenges of the real world. Our children are hurting, and more than ever they need the attention, and unconditional love of trusted adults, who set boundaries and enforce them with loving kindness. The best advice that the ChatBus counsellors could give to parents at this time, is to spend time with your children.
Going into 2021, ChatBus has requests from three of their existing schools, to increase the level of service, and from eight other schools in the city, to provide the ChatBus service to their schools. The ChatBus team would really like to meet this need, but they need more financial resources to do so.
The funding promised by the government to provide counselling in primary schools, would certainly give ChatBus a good boost, but there is no guarantee how much will come to the southern regions, and when this will be. There has already been an announcement that the funding will begin in areas most economically affected by Covid.
It has been said many times “it takes a village to raise a child” and Chatbus has been there for the past thirteen years, quietly helping raise our local children. Now ChatBus needs to ask the wider community to help them continue nourishing the mental and emotional health of our children.
Counselling is fundamental to the mental health and wellbeing of the citizens of Aotearoa, and ChatBus focuses on our younger citizens, so that they will cope now, but also that they can take the strengths they learn now, into the future. They learn that it is good to reach out to others, and that they can develop a healthy functioning mental health as they grow.
ChatBus needs over $700,000 to meet the needs of 2021.
There are several ways the community can help.
Online is a scheme called 1000STARS, where individuals can pay $20 per month to be a STAR for our children, by paying for counselling sessions. www.chatbus.org.nz/donate
Of course one-off general donations are also accepted via this link.
ChatBus has also developed a sponsorship package for businesses, so if you own a business and would like to make a significant difference to our younger citizens, please contact the ChatBus office at email@example.com and request sponsorship information.
Will you invest in our children today for a great outcome in the future?