Bro­ken, she begged Child­line to save her. Vol­un­teer Colin came to her res­cue. Now YOU can help too...

Sunday Mirror - - FRONT PAGE -

en­sure it can train its coun­sel­lors to meet the de­mand. Now the Sun­day Mir­ror is team­ing up with the char­ity for its Light Up Christ­mas for Chil­dren Cam­paign in a bid to do just that. For just £4, you could help en­sure a coun­sel­lor is there for a child just like that lit­tle girl – and £20 could fund an en­tire coun­selling ses­sion for a des­per­ate young per­son. In 2017, their ser­vices are needed more than ever. In the last year, Child­line coun­sel­lors have spo­ken to 22,000 chil­dren on the edge of sui­cide. When it comes to how many times Colin has had to call 999, he says he lost count at 40.

Esther, 77, says what is al­ways on both of their minds: “What if the fourth child, that child who can’t get through, is a sui­cide call?”

Colin has taken 15,000 calls over three decades – the voices are burned into in his mem­ory.

He says: “One teenage girl 10 years ago spoke to me for about 20 min­utes about all kinds of triv­ial things. I did what I al­ways do – I lis­tened.

“Then she said, ‘I took some pills about half an hour ago’.”

He begged her to tell him where she was so he could call an am­bu­lance. She pan­icked as her mum came home, say­ing: “I have to go.” But Colin man­aged to stop her hang­ing up and got her to put her mum on the phone.

“She be­gan scream­ing and cry­ing, ask­ing her what she’d done, but I stayed on the phone and got her to call an am­bu­lance,” says Colin. “There would be time to talk about what was on her mind later, but they had to deal with what was in her stom­ach.”

TOR­TURED

At all hours, Child­line staff and vol­un­teers at the hot­line’s 12 UK bases are deal­ing with equally har­row­ing calls. Gran­dad Colin, of Malvern, Worcs, works at the Birm­ing­ham cen­tre. He’s trudged through snow and hail to be there be­cause he knows the dif­fer­ence just one con­ver­sa­tion with a child can make. As a sec­ondary school deputy head, he en­coun­tered sev­eral chil­dren who’d ex­pe­ri­enced phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse and was tor­tured by thoughts of what could have hap­pened if he’d known about their plight ear­lier.

Esther talks of the ini­tial re­ac­tion to Child­line. Do­na­tions flooded in from all over the coun­try, in­clud­ing a per­sonal gift from Princess Diana. One pen­ni­less widow gave the char­ity all she had – her gold wed­ding ring.

As it grew in pop­u­lar­ity, Child­line strug­gled to an­swer of all its calls – with some chil­dren phon­ing re­peat­edly. One 11-year-old boy, over­whelmed with shame, would speak only to Colin – tak­ing sev­eral calls be­fore re­veal­ing he was be­ing abused by his dad.

And the growth of so­cial me­dia has given Child­line a new set of prob­lems. Esther ad­mits she is still haunted by a

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