Access SafeSpot for counselling children – OCA
WITH ADVANCED technology becoming more available, Diahann Gordon Harrison, children’s advocate of Jamaica, is calling on parents involved in the process of getting divorced to take advantage of the option of the SafeSpot platform to have their children counselled.
As numerous studies worldwide reveal, these children oftentimes suffer severely from depression and other psychological challenges, and Gordon Harrison hopes to see more of these children across Jamaica being able to access help remotely.
As she delivered statistics of calls, texts and WhatsApp messages taken by counsellors associated with the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) through the SafeSpot since its launch in May 2021, she expressed concern for children so affected, especially those in upper-class communities.
She referenced a situation involving minors, whose parents are in the process of being divorced, and the children being counselled remotely through SafeSpot.
“We have been able to use SafeSpot in a very innovative way. A very complex custody matter was before the court, and because of the sensitivities, the children were having issues, but the parents were not so minded to have any kind of contact or referral to a psychologist, because they’re not going into a psychologist’s office. ‘It’s too public.’ ‘It’s too stigmatising’ and ‘What would people think?’” Gordon Harrison said.
“We were able to incorporate in our submissions that SafeSpot could provide that discreet counselling support in a very confidential way, that neither the child nor the parent would feel exposed,” she said.
Gordon Harrison argued, too, that children’s helplines, such as SafeSpot, provide very useful outlets and give governments a direct understanding of what children are experiencing.
She shared that the counsellors who serve are not only significantly impacted by the concerns children have expressed, but they have to be on alert 24/7 to respond to needy children who reach out at the odd hours when they are able to.
“We have a cohort of them (callers or texters), who we almost refer to as ‘SafeSpot babies’, because they’re referred to the shift that’s coming on. So they’ll (the counsellors) sometimes ... say, in terms of their interactions, that they can’t sleep unless they check in with their SafeSpot buddy - just to talk about how the day went, high points, low points, and that comfort space was there,” she explained.
Gordon Harrison disclosed that approximately 2,000 contacts are made via the text option only on the WhatsApp line.
There were 2,345 contacts made to the helpline in the last year, of which the 2,000 is accounted for.
The majority of contacts were from those age 16 to 17 years.
SafeSpot was launched during the pandemic as a solution for children to directly seek assistance by either calling a 24/7 toll-free landline (888-723-3776) or sending messages via the online platforms (@safespotja) on WhatsApp, BiP, Instagram and Snapchat, where a counsellor would respond to them.
Reporting on the data collected from conversations with 2,345 calls and contacts in 2022 from the public to SafeSpot, Gordon Harrison informed that 85 per cent of the calls were from children making direct reports of challenges they were facing.