BRIS (Barnens Rätt i Samhället) is an organisation devoted to working with children and promoting children’s rights in society. A large part of its work involves talking – and, above all, listening – to children and young people. To handle this assignment, BRIS employs a number of counsellors. One of them is Magdalena Laestander, who comes in contact with children and young people on a daily basis through the various channels that BRIS makes available for both children and adults to contact a counsellor. Children and young people aged up to 18 can mail, chat online via bris.se or call 116 111. There is also a phone line for adults, which parents of other adults can use to seek support and guidance from a child’s perspective. This means that no two days are alike for Magdalena.

– A day shift might start with staffing the adult phone line from 9 in the morning until noon. You could then be switched to an email shift, where you’re answering emails from young people until 2 in the afternoon. After that, the hotline – 116 111 – and online chat open up for the afternoon and evening.

Magdalena is in contact with children and young people who need help every day, all year round, but relates that the issues tend to vary according to the time of day or month of the year. In August, callers are often nervous about going back to school, while loneliness is a common problem during the school holidays. Many of the mails, chats and phone calls the BRIS counsellors handle are linked to psychological problems in one way or another.

– They can have to do with everything from friends, school, love and sex, to simply feeling really, really down. We sometimes get calls from children who are subjected to physical or mental abuse at home, or who are living with adults who are in a violent relationship.

Even though the BRIS counsellors can help by listening to all the calls they receive, Magdalena wishes they could do even more.

What would it mean for BRIS if you could pay for another counsellor?
– We could reach more children. Not just through emails, chats and phone calls, but by developing other kinds of support as well. We need to use more channels and set up more digital support options to establish presence on the platforms that children actually use.

For Magdalena, it has to do with listening, supporting, reinforcing and attempting to help and find solutions jointly with the child in question.

– It’s incredibly important to listen to children and young people. Let them talk, let them express in words what they’re thinking about, or what they find hard. Let them talk it out.