Ask Sam letter


To Sam

First Call to Childline

Dear Sam, What's it like to call Childline for the first time? I really want to call, and have come close sometimes, but I just can't. It's very rare now that I'm home alone, but there was once where I thought I would be for a while. I picked up the house phone and heard an automatic voice. It told me to press 3 for a counsellor. I pressed 3 and then... hung up. I was terrified that day. I love speaking by email and 1-2-1 chat, but I'd love to actually speak to them. While I'm at it, it might be nice to start Skype calls, or something face-to-face, over the website. That's just an idea that some people might like. So basically, my question is: Can you describe what it's like having your first call to Childline?

Ask Sam


Hi there,

There are lots of different ways to get help from Childline. It doesn't have to be talking to a counsellor on the phone if that’s scary or tricky at home. It could be sending a letter to me, talking to other young people on Childline’s message boards or getting information and advice from the website.

If you do want to talk to someone, there's always a person ready to listen. The three ways to get in touch with a counsellor are by 1-2-1 chat, a private message through your Childline account (called Childline Email) and calling us on the phone.

You can call Childline on any phone for free on 0800 11 11. It won’t show up in your phone bill and nobody will see that you've called us. This is important if you’re worried about someone at home finding out that you’ve called and you’re worried for your safety. You can also call us by dialling 116 111 which will go to Childline if you're in the UK. This number in other countries will usually connect you to that country's helpline for children and young people, but not always. If you’re need support when you’re outside of the UK, you can call that number or try these options.

When you call Childline, the first thing you’ll hear is an automated message which gives you a few different choices about how you can get support. These change from time to time but there’ll always be an option to connect and talk with a counsellor. If you choose this option, you’ll then be placed into a queue. The queue to talk might be only a few seconds or it could be a few minutes. No matter how long you wait, your call will always be answered.

When the counsellor answers, they'll usually say something to introduce themselves like telling you their name, and then asking if there's something you would like to talk about. Some people stay silent at this point or don't know what to say and hang up. This is absolutely fine and you can do this as many times as you need to if it helps you build up the courage to talk. If you don't say anything at first but stay on the line, the counsellor might give you some encouragement but they’ll also leave lots of space for you to start talking as well.

When you feel able to talk, the counsellor is there to listen to you. They’ll ask you questions and wait for you to answer them. Sometimes they might ask you things like your first name, just to make the conversation easier.Telling the counsellor your name doesn't affect our confidentiality promise – they’ll only have to tell someone what you’ve talked about if they’re worried about your safety or in a few specific situations.

The counsellor will talk to you for as long as you need. For most callers, this is around 15-20 minutes. You can talk on the phone for longer than this but we've found that after a while it's better to take a break and come back to talk more another time.

​Remember that you can say as much or as little as you like. It can sometimes take a few calls before you feel able to say everything you want to. I answered a letter about how counsellors take notes which you might also find useful to read. Childline has lots of advice and information about calling for support if you have more questions.

Thanks for sending me this letter I hope it helps you and anyone else thinking of calling.

Take care.


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You can talk privately to a counsellor online or call 0800 1111 for free.

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