On The Line 'Until The Sun Came Up': Kids Helpline Answers Its Eight Millionth Call

In the middle of the night when he was just 17 years old, Cameron Brown made a phone call that saved his life.

"I was at that turning point in my life," Brown, now 29, told 10 daily.

"I actually stayed on that phone call until the sun came up. That the sun had come up, the next day was there and I’d gotten through my hardship with the other person on the other end of that phone call, had allowed me to survive another day."

After suffering from mental health issues and substance abuse, Brown had become suicidal.

"I was a young, gay rugby player. That didn’t go hand in hand, you know, and I hadn’t come out to my family and I hadn’t come out to my friends. Having that person at the other end of a phone line that I could actually talk to about that stuff was a massive relief.”

That other person was a counselor with Kids Helpline, which on Monday afternoon answered its eight millionth call.

It's the only free 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young Australians and it's now dealing with around 800 requests for help every day.

Cameron Brown is now 29 years old and works as a social enterprise manager with Wheelly Good Coffee in Melbourne -- supporting young people gain skills to either go back into the workforce or obtain skills to enter it. Image: provided

Though they never told him to do anything -- a feature which Brown said was crucial to helping his teenage self -- the counselors he dealt with were the reason he eventually saw a GP and entered rehab.

"After initially making all those phone calls I realised there was situations in my life where I wasn’t helping myself with. Making that initial phone call kind of got that barrier of asking for help out of the way."

Why People Are Making The Call

After taking calls from Aussies aged five to 25 for more than two decades, the service has seen and adapted to a changing list of reasons young people are reaching out.

In 2018, there's a growing number of calls regarding mental health, Kids Helpline CEO Tracy Adams told 10 daily.

"Increasingly we are seeing young people being able and willing to reach out about mental health and we see that as a very positive thing," Adams explained.

"Unfortunately, we still see significant numbers of young people engaging with the service with suicide related concerns."

Adams said calls regarding mental health come from young people at each stage of their struggle, whether they need extra support for an existing and diagnosed condition, or if it's feelings of anxiety or depression.

Alongside mental health and suicidal thoughts, the top issues counselors are dealing with are family relationships, emotional well-being and dating/partner relationships.

The most common reasons young people are calling Kids Helpline. Image: Kids Helpline

With an ethos of 'anytime, any reason', the service operates under the idea there is no problem too small, whether it's how to deal with a break up or talk to your parents.

"We don’t want a young person to ever feel that there isn’t somebody there to listen, to support and to help guide them," Adams said.

Eight Million's A Lot, But It Isn't All

While Adams is proud of the eight million milestone, she acknowledges not everyone who contacts the service gets a response.

"We encourage young people to keep trying, but we simply don’t have the resources to meet the demand," she said.

Amanda, a counselor with Kids Helpline. Image: provided

This year alone, more than 186,000 calls and requests for help have gone unanswered.

What's more, as their issues change and access to different technologies increases, young people are needing longer and more complex counselling sessions. As well as adding an online avenue to make contact via, Kids Helpline has seen a 72 percent increase in counselling time over the past ten years.

As someone who made his first call at around three in the morning, Brown said one of the most important features of the service was that it's 24/7.

"I think the most important thing for me was always knowing Kids Helpline were there," he said.

"I still suffered with mental health and substance abuse until about two years ago, and knowing there was a number there to call when I was going through something allowed me to have that external support system at any time of the day, anywhere I was."

This year, yourtown Art Unions -- formerly known as BoysTown-- funded 74 percent of the service.

Adams said the organisation is working to engage with governments and funding bodies in order to employ more counselors so this availability can increase.

If you need help in a crisis, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.