BRIS Report 2007


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BRIS Report 2007

  1. 1. THE T H E B R I S R E P O R T 2 0 0 7 REPORT 2007 The BRIS Report 2007
  2. 2. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07 BRIS – Children’s Rights in Society – is an NGO, a volun­ tary organisation with no party political or religious affiliation, which supports children and young people in distress and is a link between children, adults and the community. The core of BRIS’ activities is comprised of the Children’s Helpline and the BRIS­mail, to which children and young people up to the age of 18 can turn anonymously and free­of­charge when they need support from an adult. BRIS also works as an opinion maker and referral organisation to increase adults’ respect for children as individuals. BRIS works for the full application of the principles established in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. BRIS uses its collective knowledge of the situation of children and young people to inform, influence, and create opinion in children’s rights issues at various levels. BRIS also accepts calls from adults who need someone to talk to about their own or other’s children. BRIS was founded in 1971 and is organised as one national and five regional associations. Offices are located in Malmö, Göteborg, Norrköping, Stockholm and Umeå. BRIS’ activities are based on volunteer work and financial grants and donations from both private and public donors. BRIS has a total of about 500 volunteer workers who man the Children’s Helpline and the BRIS­mail. These volunteers are recruited, trained and supervised by employed BRIS personnel. The BRIS Adult Helpline – about Children is usually manned by employed BRIS representatives and costs as much as a regular phone call. The Children’s Helpline: 0200­230 230 In the Discussion Forum, which is also on Monday – Friday: 3:00 pm – 9:00 pm, children and young people can Saturday, Sunday and holidays: 3:00 pm communicate with each other under the – 6:00 pm. oversight of an adult moderator. BRIS Adult Helpline – about Children: 077­150 50 50 Monday – Friday: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm The BRIS­mail is available on and provides a personal response within a few days. Publisher BRIS, Children’s Rights in Society Documentation/research: Sofia Grönkvist, Peter Address BRIS-tidningen, Irgens, Iréne Johansson, Karin Johansson, Anna Karlavägen 121, SE-115 26 Stockholm, Sweden Löfhede, Kerstin Sjöbratt, Rosie Skoog, Eva Waltré Editor Martin Höög Photography BRIS, Lena Granfelt (cover), Ulf Huett, Ad Helena Lunding Fredrik Nyman, Matton, Christian Örnberg Text Gunnar Sandelin Responsible Editor Ingela Thalén, BRIS Association English translation Semantix Chairperson 2
  3. 3. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07 Contents The BRIS report 4 BRIS’ supportive contacts during 2006 5 göran harnesk Adults must join the children’s journey 8 Victimised children 10 Mental illness 14 Children’s sorrow 19 Discussion Forum on 24 Time to listen and read 26 ingela thalén Safeguard rights, Challenge power, Care for the soul 29 Appendix: Tables and Figures 32 Documentation of BRIS supportive contacts 33 Child contacts 34 Ten-year history of child contacts 34 Gender age 35 Living arrangements 35 Contact topics 36 Theme areas 37 Perpetrators, physical abuse 38 Perpetrators, sexual abuse 38 Calls from adults 39 Call topics 39 Callers 40 Living arrangements 40
  4. 4. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07The BRIS ReportThe BRIS Report actually experiences are different for surroundings are not aware ofhas an impossible mission different children, but common it. All too many children sayof reflecting last year’s more to many is the particular that they are given no space orthan 21,000 contacts with victimisation and conflict that understanding for their sorrow,children in a limited number arise when the children are and instead become good atof pages. In early 2007 when hurt in the adult relationships hiding it.we go through all of the on which they are most One fundamental experiencedocumentation from calls dependent. repeats itself in all of theand e-mails during 2006, The next theme is one, themes: children have ana picture appears that is which we have had reason to enormous capacity – but weanything but uniform. Here emphasise for many years: can never compromise withthere are many examples of Mental illness among the need for present, awarechildren’s strength, courage children and young people. and supportive adults.and ability to handle different The BRIS-mail in particularsituations, but also all too contains many children’s and The BRIS Report 2007 hasmany descriptions of the young people’s descriptions grown forth from broadsevere victimisation children of depression, sadness and and intensive efforts, infind themselves in when they anxiety – or symptoms in the which many in BRIS havelack support and protection form of self-destructiveness, been involved. It is howeverfrom the adult world. sleeping difficulties or eating ultimately based on thousands In the comprehensive materi- disorders. These situations are of children and young peopleal we have tried to find commo- complex, and we have tried trusting in us, and we wantnalities and connections – and to be particularly sensitive to accept this responsibility.upon renewed reviews and to how children themselves The BRIS Report is not aboutdiscussions we have seen three describe the background of all children. But it describesimportant themes crystallize. their situation and what help a reality that in various waysThis year’s BRIS Report takes they themselves would like to affects all children – andthese as its starting point. have. thereby everyone else as well. Under the heading Children’s sorrow is theVictimised children we want third theme. In calls and Martin Höög,to tell about the children who e-mails we see that children Director of Communications, BRIScontact BRIS with experiences experience many kinds of loss Editor of the BRIS Reportof physical and sexual abuse and that sorrow also existsand bullying. Of course these in children’s lives where the
  5. 5. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07More calls and e-mails – family conflictsthe most commonBRIS’ supportivecontacts during2006 The Children’s Helpline decreased, but has now strongly increased and the BRIS-mail compared to the previous year. In the area During 2006 a total of 21,273 suppor­ of poor mental health, where we have seen tive contacts were documented on the an alarming increase for several years, the Children’s Helpline and the BRIS­mail. trend continued in the same way during This is 11 percent more than the year be­ 2006 when we documented 20 percent fore. Of these contacts 54 percent were more contacts than during 2005. made by phone and 46 percent by e­mail. In the latter case it is primarily contacts For several years it has primarily been the concerning self­destructive behaviour that e­mails that have increased. This was also continue to grow. Problems of suicide as the case in 2006 when e­mails increased well as expressions of anxiety and depres­ by 14 percent and calls increased by 7.5 sion are also common. Almost one out percent compared to the previous year. of four child contacts with BRIS during The most common reason to contact 2006 dealt in some way with mental ill­ BRIS was family conflict, which was in­ ness. It was also the most common reason volved in one out of five contacts. Tangible for adults to call our adult helpline. increases have primarily occurred in the Attempts to call the Children’s Help­ areas concerning physical and sexual line have strongly increased during 2006. abuse, where the number had previously Many calls receive a busy signal or are FIGURE 1 made when the exchange is closed, and Documented child contacts 1997-2006 of the roughly 76,000 calls that were an­Year swered during opening hours, the majo­1997 10 345 rity are of a nature such that the content is 12 788 not further documented. For many years1998 14 341 we have noted that children and young1999 people test contacting BRIS in different2000 18 039 ways, including through calls that are2001 19 358 sometimes completely silent or contain2002 23 023 fast questions, jokes or provocative state­2003 22 044 ments. With many children, particularly2004 22 133 the boys, we suspect a desire for contact de­2005 19 237 spite difficulty to express oneself, but here2006 21 273 there are also children who are uncertain 0 5 000 10 000 15 000 20 000 25 000 Number of contacts of whether adults believe and take their difficult stories seriously. We suspect that The Children’s Helpline many children call and “test” several times The BRIS-mail before their story is told in its entirety.
  6. 6. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07 girls – nine out of ten were girls solely in terms of the e­mails. Just over half of the children live in a nuclear family (56%), with a lone mother (14%) and then, in descending order, with both parents alternately, in a step family and with a lone father. Perpetrators Within the theme Victimised Children the children’s information about perpetra­ tors in physical and sexual abuse and bul­ lying is described. In almost three fourths of the physical abuse cases the perpetrator is a man, usually the child’s father. Sexual abuse/molestation is committed by a man in eight out of ten cases, and here too it is most often the father. The most common scene of the crime is the home. In cases of bullying it is most common that groups of both boys and girls harass or discriminate one or more children. Otherwise bullies are more often boys. In general terms, the perpetrator profiles are confirmed on the BRIS Adult Helpline – about Children. Referrals and assignments The 15 most common contact topics Three fourths of the child contacts resul­ Topic % of all Child contacts* n = 21 273 ted in BRIS suggesting or agreeing with Family conflicts 20% 4 328 the child to make further contact for sup­ Relationships with friends 15% 3 276 port and help. In the calls there is the pos­ Love relationships 14% 2 964 sibility to see together with the child what Bullying 12% 2 549 people in his or her surrounding network Loneliness 11% 2 304 can actively contribute to a change. Just Self-destructiveness 10% 2 121 over one third were referred to an adultSuicide/thoughts of suicide 8,7% 1 851 within the family. Otherwise referrals Other mental illness 8,7% 1 847 were often made to a school counsellor/ Physical abuse 7,9% 1 672 school psychologist, a contemporary, the Existential/life issues 7,5% 1 588 youth counselling centre or a school nurse. Sexual abuse/molestation 7,1% 1 500 An assignment means that an employ­ Sexuality 5,9% 1 248 Calls ed BRIS representative goes in and gives Identity issues 5,8% 1 241 E-mail the contacting child more active help that Sorrow 5,8% 1 233 can stretch from in­depth support calls Other school problems 5,2% 1 110 to contact with authorities. This is always 0 1 000 2 000 3 000 4 000 5000 done in agreement with the child, who also remains anonymous as long as he or she wishes. During 2006, 76 assignments * Because every call/e-mail The call time for the documented calls were concluded, which is 28 more than can deal with more than has been increasing for several years, and the previous year. one topic and all of these are documented, the total in 2006 was almost 17 minutes on ave­ percentage exceeds 100%. rage. BRIS Adult Helpline – about Children Calls to the BRIS Adult Helpline – about Age, gender and Children also increased during the past living arrangements year. 2,913 adult calls means a 13 percent The average age of the children that con­ increase compared to 2005. The calls were tacted BRIS in 2006 was just over 14, most often about the child’s mental health, which is a small shift upwards compared which confirms the picture from the child to the previous year. Eight out of ten were contacts. Problems concerning divorce
  7. 7. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07 The 15 most common call topics in the Adult Helpline % of all calls* The child’s mental health 38% Total Divorce-related 34% Problems in the parental role 31% Family conflicts 23% Other problems related to the child 17% Problems with authorities 14% Physical abuse 11% Neglect 11%School problems (other than bullying) 8,2% Physical/Mental illness in the family 8,2% Legal guidance 7,8% Sexual abuse/molestation 7,8% Psychological abuse 7,7% Alcohol/substance abuse 7,3% Bullying 6,1% 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 % n = 2,913 * Because every call can deal and the parental role are other common to­ Adult guarantee and with more than one topic and all pics. The demands and responsibilities of child perspective of these are documented, the total percentage exceeds 100%. parenthood are amplified and made more The BRIS Report forms the basis for prio­ difficult through unresolved conflicts of ritisations made regarding BRIS’ activities divorce and separation and the increasing in the coming year. The voices of children psychological pressure on the children. and young people to BRIS during the past This is combined with many feeling alone year consequently form a link to the work in their parental role and lacking support in the now and for the future. The themes and help from society. we have chosen to emphasize in this year’s The caller to the Adult Helpline is a report will also permeate the outreach ser­ mother in about half of the cases, and vices – and like last year the guidewords thereafter a father (14%) or a grandparent are an adult guarantee and child perspec­ (11%). In eight cases out of ten the caller tive. Taken together, the stories of children is a woman. The children about whom the and young people in the support services adults call are considerably younger than bear witness to a lack of present, aware and in the child contacts, with an average age supportive adults in their lives. of 11. The distribution is 55 percent girls We believe such adults are one of the and 45 percent boys. Close to two thirds of most important salutogenic – health pro­ the calls concern children whose parents moting – factors for children and young are separated. The adult calls last just over people, and in 2007 BRIS will therefore 25 minutes on average. focus on adult’s attitudes towards and treatment of children. ❚ The website has had more than 930,000 visits during 2006, which is more than double the number of the previous year. As to those that require a login, al­ most 11,500 active users have logged in Note! more than 80,000 times, which is a 23 To shed some light on the topics we bring up in the BRIS Report, we use examples and percent increase compared to the previous quotes from the support services. These are year. Almost 15,000 submissions have authentic, but certain information is always been published on our Discussion Forum altered to guarantee that no individual child can be identified. during the year, which is a 60 percent in­ crease compared to 2005. 7
  8. 8. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07Adults must jointhe children’sjourneyIn the platform BRIS has “Without exception one can say that foto christian örnbergdefined for 2007, adult children’s stories to us adults are a rare commodity in today’s society. Conversa­attitudes towards and tions with adults, where the child can feeltreatment of children affirmation and respect for them as theis placed in focus. The individuals that they are, are therefore sofocal areas treat the very important. For me, the adult guaran­ tee and a child perspective are living wordsvictimisation of children in of honour,” he, children’s sorrow All of the terms mentioned here inand mental illness. Here the the preamble are at risk of becomingSecretary General of BRIS, empty rhetoric if they are not filled with living meaning. A child perspective, theGöran Harnesk, provides children’s best, an adult guarantee, vic­his view of the meaning of timised children are examples of smallthese terms and how BRIS concepts that are mentioned constantly,finds direction in the daily sometimes almost automatically. Göran Harnesk feels that it could definitely turn Göran Harnesk, Secretary General of out that way if the descriptions are used because they look nice in handsome pro­ grammes and documents. In order to more Today many believe easily bring these approaches to heart, he BRIS just talks with thinks instead of what the consequences mean to children and young people. And abused and bullied it may be so that guidewords help when young people show symptoms that are dif­ children, but the idea ficult to define, such as the meaning and is that we should also consequences of the psychological abuse and poor mental health. be able to extend the “Poor mental health is a complex pro­ blem and a term that is often used in many perspective so that we contexts. In the BRIS Report we clarify can also talk about how it looks and why the preventative work must be focused upon. It is difficult networks. to measure, but necessary to stop crises and catastrophes in the lives of children and young people.”
  9. 9. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07 Drastic increase panded collaboration with the world of The tangible increase of contacts concer­ schools. ning mental illness is the strongest sign “Bullying can look differently than what of a change during the 2000s since the we have been used to so far, but this will BRIS­mail was opened after the turn of not entail any fundamental change in our the century. This year these contacts have basic efforts. We will however collaborate increased by another 20 percent and now with student organisations and the Swe­ one out of four supportive contacts with dish Teachers’ Union, among others, to BRIS concern mental illness. Göran Har­ find ways together in the future,” Göran nesk has himself answered supportive calls Harnesk says. since he began at BRIS eight years ago. Is there a feeling of helplessness at times? New ways of meeting children “No, I just become more determined 2006 made it clear that BRIS must be on its to take it seriously. One has to work even toes to be present in the constantly chan­ harder and shed light on the issues, and ging arenas, which children and young we play an important role there,” he says people frequent in the digital landscape. If and goes on to speak of the psychologi­ one is to support the children, one must be cal abuse that BRIS has placed under the there too, reasons the Secretary General of magnifying glass this year: BRIS and mentions new forums to cover, “This is also an area difficult to define, such as chat and text messages. It is exci­ which must be taken care of before the ting to try to find new ways of supporting problems become something that runs children, but at the same time BRIS must so deep in the souls of children that it remain cool and quality assure the new, becomes unmanageable. This includes upcoming emphases and grow with rea­ daily conflicts such as guilt and shame son. 2007 will be an important year where in divorce and separation where we must that mentioned in the BRIS Report will continue to find ways so that children feel be followed up and delved into in the ba­ that there are adults who accompany them sic work and in the new BRIS Magazine’s on their journey. Again, the term adult next four issues. guarantee is very important.” “Everything has gone so fast. When I began, 90 percent of it was about normal Victimisation of children telephony. Then came the explosion of Another larger grasp that BRIS takes in mobiles and the Internet. I am fascinated this annual report and in its work of the by the direction it has taken. Especially coming year is the victimisation of child­ with regard to the e­mails, which have ren. This description includes physical illustrated a great loneliness and sorrow and mental abuse, but also an expanded that I did not believe existed. They sit in definition of bullying in the form of ha­ their solitude and write, and it makes a big rassment and discrimination. Is there any difference in the contact compared to the risk that this concept be given an all too dialogue that we previously had with only broad meaning? children’s voices on the phone,” Göran “We need to make sure that the descrip­ Harnesk concludes. ❚ tion covers all children who really are vic­ timised. Today many believe BRIS just talks with abused and bullied children, but the idea is that we should also be able to extend the perspective so that we can also talk about networks. This helps us to see the child’s entire environment and it is important that children receive support regardless of how their surroundings look,” Göran Harnesk responds. Bullying is a classical problem area that through the years has almost always topped the lists at BRIS. The expanded concept of bullying is consistent with the legislation that was recently modified. On the part of BRIS this also means an ex­
  10. 10. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07VictimisedTHEME 1children In 1971 BRIS began with the objective of protecting children from adult violence, and contributed to Sweden adopting the world’s first anti-corporal punishment law eight years later. In this year’s BRIS Report we emphasize the particularly difficult situation children end up in when they are victims of physical and sexual abuse and harassment by adults on whom they are simultaneously dependent. The heading Victimised children covers the contact topics physical and psychological abuse, sexual abuse and bullying. During 2006, 5,552 or 26 percent of the child contacts dealt with one or more of these four topics. The girl has been hit in the face by her father. She col- lects her little sister at day-care and cooks food for her. Has a test in school the day after and now cannot go because of the bruises. She has been beaten by both mum and dad several times before. Call with a -year-old girl 0
  11. 11. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07Physical andsexual abuse– the greatest violation takes place in the family in calls and e-mails that concern the victimisation In physical abuse, the violence is perpetrated in the of children, BRIS meets lonely children in lack of home in 84 percent of the cases. In sexual abuse, the supportive adult relationships. Children in distress figure for the home environment is 60 percent. stand in a difficult position of dependency on an adult The boy is beaten at home by his father. Feels world that has failed them. When the most common humiliated and sad. Big sister is also beaten. Their site of physical and sexual abuse is the home, the child parents are divorced, addicts. The boy hopes, but becomes dependent on adults who should protect and doesn’t believe that mum can do something about it. There is contact with social services, but the boy support them, but instead constitute a hazard. doesn’t trust them, they don’t listen according to “The greatest violation is when the abuse occurs him. Call with a 2-year-old boy within the family. It is a double betrayal: the person who should protect the child and constitute security From the children’s stories, BRIS has charted perpe­ takes advantage this dependency for abuse. The other trators for a decade and the picture remains tangibly parent’s betrayal when he or she lets this happen similar from year to year. Men dominate when it is just as difficult for the child to understand,” comes to physical abuse and are represented to an says Rosie Skoog, Regional Manager of BRIS even higher degree when it comes to sexual abuse. A Central Region in Stockholm, about the con­ certain increase of physical violence from fathers and tacts regarding physical and sexual abuse. boyfriends could be noted together with a decrease When harassment and discrimination exist of other contemporary perpetrators compared to last in the world of school, the victimised child is year’s data. The most common perpetrators are: bio­ also extremely dependent on the adults on site logical fathers in 44 percent of the cases, mothers inRosie Skoog, accepting their responsibility and doing what 14 percent and boy/girlfriends in 11 percent.Regional Manager, they can to combat the bullying. In sexual abuse, biological fathers (29%) or mo­BRIS Central Region thers (12%) are the most common perpetrators. The Increase of physical and sexual abuse percentage of contemporary perpetrators has de­ In 2006 BRIS experienced a tangible increase within creased compared to last year, but in spite of this the topics of physical and sexual abuse. During the comprises 22 percent. Seen over a longer time frame, year BRIS had almost 3,200 child contacts that con­ the proportion of teachers/school personnel has also cerned physical, psychological or sexual abuse, which decreased. means an increase of 40 percent compared to the pre­ Both in physical abuse and sexual abuse/molesta­ vious year. tion there are cases with more than one perpetrator, It is important to point out that large changes from where for instance a man and a woman together vic­ year to year have been seen earlier, but that the con­ timise the child. tacts about physical and sexual abuse still have not Sexual abuse is often aggravated, but can also in­ increased seen over a longer time frame. On the other clude molestation through groping and sometimes hand, information throughout all years indicates that verbal attacks. In some cases the violence has resulted the most common crime scene is the home and the in pregnancy with a father. The children, who tell of perpetrator is a parent. This picture was reinforced having tried to get support from their surroundings, during 2006. many times express a sense of being lost among the When it comes to physical and sexual abuse and support organisations of society. bullying, contacts over the phone are almost twice The girl has been sexually abused since primary as common as those via e­mail. These topics also oc­ school by her dad when her mum works nights. The cur comparatively more often in contacts about boys girl has tried to commit suicide several times, been than those about girls. admitted to hospital multiple times without saying why. Call with a 14-year-old girl
  12. 12. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07 Her stepfather and his friend sexually abuse the girl special review conducted for this year’s BRIS Report when her mum is at work, films and sells the films on indicates that psychological abuse is more common the Net. The girl doesn’t know where to turn and doesn’t dare tell for fear of not being believed. than indicated by the documentation. In this calcula­ Call with a -year-old girl tion we have still not included all contacts that deal with victimisation to bullying, physical and sexual Some girls who contact BRIS are unsure of where abuse, which can almost always be said to contain the boundary goes for what can be considered sexual psychological abuse of varying degrees. abuse and molestation. Girls who in their teenage years test their way forward in sexual relations can The girl talks about insults in the foster home, in which she lives after her mum’s death. Has very little ask BRIS if what they have experienced at a party contact with her dad. Has lived with insults for many can be called rape. Many describe situations where years. The other children in the home are better off, it has been difficult to resist or where they have been but the girl has to take a lot. “It would be just as well uncertain about what is to be expected or what they if she didn’t exist, if she were dead etc.” The girl just have to agree to. Young girls also say that they are takes it and complies so it won’t get worse. Won- ders if an adult is allowed to say the things she has enticed into exploitation in new arenas tied to digital to put up with. Call with a -year-old girl technology. An open question is how much the sexu­ alised media offering combined with absent adults in­ In its report (SOU 2001:72) the Commission on fluences teenagers – with great needs of affirmation Child Abuse defines psychological abuse of children. – to destructive boundary­breaking. In brief it means a systematic degradation that conti- nues over an extended period of time. According to this “I started chatting with a guy on MSN, but then it definition and upon renewed review of BRIS’ con­ turned out he was 29 years old!” tacts, we can see that psychological abuse is up to “I’ve posed in underwear in a web camera for a guy three times as common as the 3.1 percent we have and regret it a lot. I don’t dare tell mum about it.” documented to date. E-mails from -year-old girls From the children’s information we can also see that psychological abuse in 80 percent of the cases “I regret taking off my clothes on the web cam, but occurs in the home and that it is primarily the parents it still felt good that someone thought I was pretty and wanted to see me.” who victimise the child. E-mail from a -year-old girl Connection to mental illness With regard to physical and sexual abuse, the da­ Within the topic of family conflicts, there are many maged trust in the surrounding adults shows itself hidden stories of a mental and emotional terror that when children and young people try to seek help. A the children cannot fend off. It is daily harassment report often results in a withdrawal due to fear of what and degradation from family members, where harsh could happen with the family. Moreover, it is com­ words and negative criticism deeply wound self­es­ mon that the child protects the perpetrator from his teem. Many children never hear that they are loved, or her position of dependence. but rather are an unwelcome nuisance to their parents. “The smallest doubt or signals that it will not hold Others tell of adults who are constantly morose, tired the entire way can get the child to back­out entirely. and lack patience. These adults generally seem to have Not daring to tell because of feelings of shame and great needs and problems of their own, and do not guilt, fear of not being believed or that the family have the energy to be parents. Instead they take their will be split, are fully adequate reasons for a child to aggression out on the children. keep quiet.” “Children who are exposed to psychological abuse “Instead, poor self­esteem and self­loathing can lead can be afflicted by various forms of mental illness. to different self­destructive behaviours like self­muti­ When statements of love and positive affirmation are lation, depression, suicide attempts, eating disorders, missing, their self­image is hurt and they describe sor­ problems of addiction etc.” says Rosie Skoog, whose row, emptiness and poor self­esteem. But the child­ experience is that many children express the desire to ren themselves never use the term psychological abuse leave the home to live in a foster home instead. and are uncertain of whether what they are exposed to is allowed or not,” says Karin Johansson, BRIS re­ Psychological abuse presentative in BRIS West in Göteborg. “My parents often shout at me. I don’t have to have done anything wrong. My dad says that I am a “I feel awful and am hardly ever happy. When I shame to the family…he calls me different things was younger my parents hit me but now they’ve that make me feel bad. My mum has started to stopped but they keep insulting me and say loads lock me in my room like she did when I was little.” of mean things… If I don’t get the highest marks in E-mail from a -year-old girl all subjects I’m stupid… It feels as if I’m not allowed to exist but I don’t know why.” E-mail from a 7-year-old boy Psychological abuse is an area difficult to measure in which the child’s bruises sit on his or her soul. A 2
  13. 13. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07 “Nor do they know where to turn to get help and how to long­term consequences of the bullying. be able to express their experiences. In most cases, the “I have a lot of problems at home in school...I get psychological abuse is invisible to their surroundings, like bullied, hit threatened...I hardly dare to go but the children bear the consequences of it, sometimes home from school any more... I’m worried all the in the form of psychiatric symptoms like depression, time can’t concentrate in school…” anxiety and obsessive­compulsive syndrome. This is E-mail from a 2-year-old boy a topic that hardly receives any attention in society at all. It happens seldom or never that children receive Responsibility of the school legal redress after long­term and serious psychological One consequence of the bullying is that school results abuse, even though it is a crime under the intent of the are negatively impacted. Otherwise the picture has law,” Karin Johansson confirms. been similar for many years: children and young people have told BRIS that they have sought help Discrimination and degrading treatment in vain among teachers or other school personnel Discrimination and degrading treatment is a new without result. Often they have instead heard that term for the year, which is adapted to our new they are themselves to blame. It is clear that many legislation, which expands the definition of bullying school managers still lack the tools for and training and reinforces the responsibility of head masters, in active preventative work and how to handle daily teachers and the staff of schools to stop all degrading bullying. We also know that there are many teachers treatment in the school. who believe that it is not a part of their job descrip­ Bullying is a central area, which has long been at tion to handle relationships between students. But the top of BRIS’ statistics. During last year more than there are also examples of the opposite, where the 2,500 or 12 percent of the child contacts were about difference teachers who are interested, listen and act bullying. can make to a single child is larger than one might The afflicted children – and sometimes even bullies ever understand oneself. who want help – make contact primarily by phone. “Bullying arises easily in groups where there is Victimisation due to bullying is also the most common fear, insecurity or ambiguity regarding rules andKarin Johansson, topic for boys to contact BRIS about. It is primarily procedures – and that also applies to groups of adults.BRIS representative, children of younger ages up to and including middle Today many children come to school with stress, worryBRIS West school age who call or e­mail about bullying. and demands, and it is a major challenge for teachers The picture of who bullies has remained similar to create a safe environment in such large groups for several years. Almost all bullying, 87 percent, is like that of a school class. BRIS has long demanded done by a group of bullies. Most common are mixed increased training for teachers in group processes, gender groups, but at the same time boys are more leadership and conflict management,” says Martin often bullies than girls. During 2006 there was ho­ Höög, Director of Communications at BRIS. wever some increase in bullying girls. IT bullying “I feel so bullied in every way that I am afraid of In the last few years bullying with new media has starting in 6th grade because I’m afraid that eve-Martin Höög, ryone will keep bullying me. I’ve done everything entered into the picture with harassment in front ofDirector of Com- a mass audience on the Internet or by e­mail, text they say you should do but nothing helps I just wantmunications, BRIS to kill myself.” E-mail from a 2-year-old girl messages, etc. In its last annual report BRIS warned of bullying, exploitive and destructive contacts over Victimisation due to bullying has been one of the the Internet. A person victimised by the spreading of most common reasons for children and young people rumours and persecution in the public space has little to contact BRIS over the years. Bullying statistics possibility of redress and instead risks having his or rose particularly during the latter part of the 1990s, her private life put on display for public scrutiny and which BRIS then called to attention in the societal one’s own powerlessness. debate. The influx of bullying contacts has been “The actual limitlessness is itself frightening to relatively constant over time, which means that focus children. A film, image or comment that has been on bullying has decreased somewhat the last few put on the Net can never be taken back, and the years. Instead observation has largely been aimed at combination with harassment occurring anonymously the dramatic increase in mental illness. makes it impossible to manage its scope,” Martin Bullying is however one of the most weighty Höög confirms. topics with timeless problems where the stories of “The communication channels exist today and it is victimisation are similar from year to year. They now important that adults get interested and not leave cover everything from being frozen out, rumours the children alone here. We cannot expect children being spread and verbal discrimination to physical to understand and be able without help to handle the abuse. The children that contact BRIS tell of the effects that can arise with tools as powerful as the exclusion, the pain and the weak will to live as the Internet,” Martin Höög says. ❚
  14. 14. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07MentalTHEME 2illness The most notable trend in BRIS’ contacts during the 2000s is the massive rise in children and young people making contact, mainly by e-mail, about various problems that are related to mental illness. This development is also confirmed on the BRIS Adult Helpline – about Children. Mental illness in BRIS’ statistics includes self-destructiveness, problems of suicide, eating disorders and other mental illness. The latter means depression, phobias and panic anxiety, for example. “There are a lot of young people that are doing poorly, but don’t dare seek help or don’t want to or because it’s too far away, get more places and offices for counsellors or something! Because it’s NEEEDED!” Submission to BRIS’ Discussion Forum
  15. 15. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07Children and young people who are doing poorlyIt is not the reaction, ratherthe situation is abnormal During 2006 BRIS had 4,871 supportive child to seeking support from each other, which does not contacts that concerned mental illness, which is always suffice. an increase of 20 percent compared to the previous “The scale of poor mental health stretches over year. Consequently in 2006 almost one out of four many symptoms, everything from scratching one­ contacts concerned mental illness. Usually they self superficially once to pure suicide attempts near concern 14­17 year olds and the topic is more than death. Here there is a wide spectrum where many twice as common in contacts about girls compared test their limits and describe how difficult it is to to boys. The topic is also almost twice as common quit cutting themselves once they’ve begun. It be­ in e­mails compared to phone calls. comes an addiction,” Eva Waltré says. “We also see different signs of depression such More darkness than light as sleeping disorders, internal feelings of blackness The increase in contacts about suicide/suicidal and emptiness, and a loss of the zest for life.” thoughts and self­destructive behaviour among teenage girls is something in particular that BRIS Underlying causes has been warning about since 2002 and, at the In order to develop mental illness, a combination government level, demanded preventative measures of underlying factors is most often required. This against. Girls who cut themselves and young people can be being exposed to unmanageable difficulties who express that they do not want to live continue combined with living under long­term stress. In to contact BRIS in a constantly increasing flow. addition to this, if adults on which one is depen­ This agrees well with the reports that regularly come dent are not present and aware or are unreliable, the from both authorities and volunteer organisations feeling of powerlessness is amplified. On the BRIS about increasing mental illness among children and Adult Helpline both parents and other adults in the young people. child’s surroundings tell in parallel about loneliness “The contacts during the year regarding mental and being at a loss in the parental role. illness bear witness to both severe and less severe Most of the children who make contact also pro­ problems. In brief, one can say that the content of vide a background to the symptom’s origin. It is their stories clearly shows a feeling of loneliness and about living with victimisation, lacking possibilities of not really being good enough as they are. It is to influence one’s situation, having a dysfunctional about not fitting in and not having the strength to family or living arrangement, or extreme require­ handle different kinds of pressure in school, ideals ments to live up to in both school and leisure time. of beauty, difficult family conditions and some per­ sonally traumatic events,” summarises Eva Waltré, “The girl has been doing poorly psycho- logically for a long time. Her mum wants BRIS Support Services Coordinator. to get help from child psychiatry services, Through all of the stories BRIS learns that for but her dad is against it. Her mum is in most teenagers life swings between light and dark­ despair. Can her dad not allow this?” ness. The contacts that concern mental illness, how­ Neighbour calling about a -year-old girl ever, most often convey a compact and constant blackness, and in that situation day­to­day set­ Some speak well of family and friends, but describe backs can easily be experienced as catastrophic to an emptiness where one’s own life feels like a façade. self­esteem. We see that the consequences of poor It is common to the contacts about self­destructive­ mental health become more drastic than they need ness/suicide that the children/young people convey be, because these children and young people often anger and despair directed at both themselves and lack support from adults. Instead they are relegated the adult world. At the same time there is a longing
  16. 16. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07 When it comes to living arrangements, among the contacts about mental illness there is a clear over­ representation of social placements in foster homes or at treatment centres as well as young people li­ ving on their own. In the contacts about mental illness there are also experiences of not being able to influence their living arrangement, this particularly applies to children with divorced parents. Has been thrown out of the foster home that she lived in since she was eight years old. Social services have placed her at a treatment centre among all of the “junkies”. She feels like she’s just getting worse and worse. She cannot live with her parents. The girl wants to live somewhere other than at a treatment centre. She feels like the social services cannot help her. Call with a -year-old girl “Since I was 9 years old I’ve lived at a foster home, but now I have to move because we always fight, and the mother can’t handle me. I really want to stay, I’ve thought about suicide!” E-mail from a -year-old girl The combined impression from both the children’s and the adults’ stories is that the children that con­ tact BRIS about mental illness actually show ade­ quate reactions to a situation that has been all too trying in the home, at school and/or in the circle of friends for a long time. It can be about anything for help, where the BRIS­mail constitutes an easily from victimisation due to physical and sexual abuse available contact for many. to divided families where parents and new partners do not understand or accept the child’s needs. There … I have loads of suicidal thoughts in my are often combinations of circumstances behind head…that I can’t ever shake…have tried the child’s mental illness such as constant family to kill myself twice…feeling crap…My parents beat me. Have started to cut my conflicts, alcohol or substance abuse in the home or wrists.” divorced parents who use the child as a bat. E-mail from a -year-old boy “We receive serious signals from the children, where their “I walk around and have suicidal thoughts symptoms show that they all the time…every night I cry and I want a better life! Damned alcoholic mum!!” live under major strain. It is E-mail from a -year-old girl a warning signal that rings where certain children need “There’s something inside me, empty supportive adult help while where you’re supposed to feel love from others must receive profes­ other people, sometimes it feels like I can’t feel emotions, cut/hurt myself a while to Eva Waltré, BRIS sional treatment to be able to Support Services feel good again,” Eva Waltré feel anything at all.” Coordinator E-mail from a -year-old girl emphasizes. In the more serious cases where children contact Role of the school BRIS about various expressions of mental illness Mental illness entails an increased vulnerability we do not seldom see a background of victimisa­ that also affects the ability to function in school. tion due to sexual abuse from a young age, physical The school is consequently at risk of also becoming and/or psychological abuse or severe bullying over an arena that contributes to a destructive spiral in a long period. It is important not to generalise, but these children’s development. the young people often describe a life situation that Because children and young people spend a large has grown out of poorly functioning family rela­ part of their weekday in school, in addition to sub­ tionships. ject knowledge they also receive important expe­
  17. 17. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07 rience and insight about relationships and identity. pearance fixation and ideals of beauty,” Eva Waltré The self­esteem that they develop is a natural result says and adds that the poor self­esteem can be made of their own success and how this is handled in the worse by not being able to live up to the ideal. But school environment influences the child’s mental self­starvation can also, like self­mutilation, be a health to a high degree. way of seeking anxiety relief. “My strength is gone, I can’t handle life; Hard to get help the food, school and training. There is a lot in school, fail over and over again on Children and young people regularly tell BRIS the tests. Everything is hard, everything about help that is insufficient or almost non­exis­ is about food, looks, weight, attention… I tent. They themselves sometimes also feel a great can’t get out of this.” deal of resistance to seeking help or they simply just E-mail from a -year-old girl do not know where to turn. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle these This picture is reinforced in BRIS’ Discussion last few weeks before the summer holiday. Forum where children and young people tell each There’s not long left, but it feels a long other how minimal the help has often been when way off because we have an outrageous they have turned to teachers, social services or child amount to do in the near future at school!” psychiatry services for instance. Many express mis­ E-mail from a -year-old boy trust against adults’ ability to be of any help and “Major demands are placed on young people to be concern for what will happen if the social apparatus able to foresee, plan and make choices in daily life. is involved with authority contacts and investiga­ We in BRIS can both read e­mails and notice in tions. calls with children and young people that performance and The social worker doesn’t listen to her and how she wants to solve her problems. high demands in school can Feels blamed with lies from the social be one of the factors that lead worker. to mental illness,” says Iréne Call with an -year-old girl Johansson, BRIS representa­ tive in Region East. She emp­ He and his siblings live with their mum at an emergency home, and soon all of hasizes that in the final report them will be placed in different homes. Iréne Johansson, from the Government Com­ He would like to have some calm and go BRIS representative, mission on the poor mental to school. Feels a great deal of stress and BRIS East health of young people (SOU worry about moving to a foster home. 2006:77) it appears that many young people feel Call with an -year-old boy that the subject and marking systems are causes of stress, but that a good, close relationship between “It is often difficult to find adults that can help. The teachers and students can be decisive to positive channels that exist often do not function. There are development. long waiting times to child psychiatry services, one must have the permission of both parents, and the Media and advertising school nurse or school counsellor has no time. So for children who cannot turn to mum and dad it’s “I think that all clothes dummies in Sweden not always easy to go further,” Eva Waltré says. should be made a normal weight be- cause not everyone is actually so thin.” The girl had finally dared to talk with her Submission to BRIS’ Discussion Forum teacher about everything that is tough. It had gone really well and she had also Feels bad about everyone around her been promised counselling help. She seeming so perfect, thinks it is particu- thinks it feels better now… larly tough with appearance fixations in Call with a -year-old girl ❚ newspapers. Call with a -year-old girl Demands of a perfect body and looks that are con­ veyed in different ways through media and adverti­ sing are recurring factors that young people them­ selves bring up as causes of stress and self­doubt. This reinforces a fundamental self­image of not being good enough as they are. “The contacts that we have about eating disorders are connected to depression to varying degrees. All such symptoms can therefore not be linked to ap­ 7
  18. 18. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07 Boys’ e-mails about suicide BriS’ experience iS that mental illness expresses it­ of the e­mails came from contemporaries who were self differently among boys and girls, with primarily worried about a friend’s problems of suicide. self­inflicted violence and eating disorders among “These contemporaries were so burdened that girls. Boys react more violently with destructive they themselves felt bad and ended up in conflict outward behaviour and more accomplished suicides. with their parents who often felt that they shouldn’t Pia Faller, The girls’ major advantage generally lies in their spend time with their depressed friend. These child­ psychologist more developed ability and habit when it comes to ren assume an overwhelming responsibility. To putting words to their difficult emotions. Nine out forbid them from seeing their destructive friend is of ten children/young people who contact BRIS a completely understandable reaction by the custo­ about their poor mental health are girls, but almost dian, but creates more problems,” Pia Faller says. half of the adults that call are concerned about a boy’s mental health. Dare to talk about the problems “If I had to guess I would believe that mental ill­ The boys who e­mailed BRIS about thoughts of sui­ ness among boys is as widespread as among the girls, cide conveyed a fundamental feeling of not being but it is difficult to change the fact that boys do not seen and recognised as individuals. When they do talk about their feelings. I believe that we must gene­ not feel like they are heard after a suicide attempt, rally try to find other forms to reach the boys – such their low self­esteem is further weakened. Pia Fal­ as talking with them when we do things together ler therefore feels that it is important that the adult – and being more attentive to when they are not fee­ world together with the boys dare to openly talk ling well,” says psychologist Pia Faller, who in 2006 about suicide and not silence and stigmatise it as wrote a D­level essay at Umeå University about boys’ today. stories about suicide to BRIS. She also mentions that, besides bullying and a In her study of just over 100 boys’ e­mails, Pia lack of guidance and support, it is important to keep Faller found that bullying was the greatest single in mind that young people’s thinking process (cog­ background factor, but that poor self­esteem, de­ nition) is still under development. jection, and depression symptoms, and/or parents “Many have not yet achieved the ability to ab­ with alcohol/substance abuse problems were also stractly conceive of a life different from the one they commonly a part of the picture. Although the boys know. If you don’t become a football pro or doctor, had previously asked for help, they had not received there are no alternative lives worth living. BRIS’ any mentionable response from adults in their sur­ work with listening and confirming their stories is roundings; when support was missing a salutogenic factor that helps them find their own in the home, other representative adults alternative solutions,” says Pia Faller. ❚ were seldom on hand. The lack of adults is serious particularly when one knows that a suicide attempt is statistically often followed by further attempts. (Pia Faller’s essay “Young boys The boys however found support in talk about suicide” is available for download from their own age group. Almost one fifth
  19. 19. Children’sTHEME 3sorrow Of BRIS’ contacts with children and young people only a small segment expressly deals with sorrow. In these cases it is often about the death of someone close, and can concern parents, siblings, other relatives, friends or pets. We see however that sorrow exists as an underlying emotion in many more contexts than one first imagines, where a very large part of our contacts are characterised by abandonment, regret, loss and exclusion. His mum had quickly fell ill and died a year ago. Feels difficult to talk with dad, doesn’t want to make him sad. The boy has started upper secondary school and thinks a lot is new and pretty tough to manage, and does not get the same support as at his old school. Would like to talk to someone, but doesn’t know where to turn. Call with a -year-old boy “Sorrow might not be something people can write to you about, for me it’s all I think about and feel right now. Mum and dad have decided to separate and have their own flats… …I feel really bad, have ulcers… can’t sleep at night… …I feel so bad and always have a headache….” E-mail from a 7-year-old girl
  20. 20. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07“Adults want it to pass quickly…” during the year BRIS has had 1,233 contacts that Sorrow after separations more directly dealt with sorrow, and these are dis­ A topic that is particularly noted is children’s expres­ tributed relatively evenly between calls and e­mails. sion of sorrow in connection with the separation of During 2006 BRIS has also received more in­depth parents as well as breaks in friendship or changing experiences of children’s sorrow when we concluded schools. the work in the spring with support groups for Separations between adults always involve chan­ children who had been affected by the tsunami ges for children. The child has few opportunities catastrophe in Asia. of influencing this, and has a hard time imagining Children’s and young people’s sorrow can, in how life will be later. Combined with a desire for addition to death, concern everything from friends “it to be like normal”, all of this becomes a breeding and crushes who do not care, to sorrow about their ground for deep sorrow among children, a sorrow “impossible” appearance, a dead house pet or parents that the adults cannot always see when they are in who abandon the child both psychologically and the middle of their own process. physically. The sorrow can also be a reaction to change or something that does not exist, or did not “I’m so sad about my parents being divorced. Want to be with both at the turn out as planned. It shows itself as a part of the same time. I don’t know what I should children’s lives with regard to expressions of regret, do!” E-mail from a 2-year-old boy loneliness and sadness. “School is no problem… But I miss my “Hi BRIS! My parents separated when friends, my old school and my boy- I was little. Now it feels like everything friend. I cry almost every night and always goes wrong at home and can never sleep … I feel like I’m getting I don’t get on well. Mum cries and says more and more tired. Soon I won’t be that she misses my sister and me. Mum able to cope with it. My parents know and dad live pretty close to each that I miss my friends, but I never say other and we go between them, sleep that I want to move back. It would be one night here, on night there. Mum way to complicated to move again…” wants to see us like a lot. Mum wants to E-mail from a -year-old girl talk to dad but then when she does it pretty much goes wrong anyway. Dad just gets annoyed and mum gets tired There is also an existential level in which the sor­ and upset. I hate having it like this! If we’re with mum we have to listen to row is included as an important component when crap about dad and if we’re with dad it comes to seeking answers to questions about the we have to listen to crap about mum. meaning of life, getting a grip on one’s search for My sister is usually on mum’s side but I identity or one’s feeling of being an outsider. Among don’t want to choose. I like my parents the group of young people that contact BRIS there equally much, but because my sister defends mum it’s like I’m defending is often an experience of sorrow that has to do with dad. I actually don’t have a real ques- a transition from childhood to increased indepen­ tion…” E-mail from a -year-old girl dence and greater responsibility. “I am really scared of what will happen “When parents choose to go separate ways the child­ in the future… Sometimes I think of ren most often have a desire that the adults will stay mum’s and dad’s childhood, if they miss it as much as I miss mine.” together. For the child the separation between the E-mail from a -year-old girl parents can mean changing homes, schools and 20
  21. 21. THE BRIS REPORT 20 07 foto fredrik nyman friends. There are se­ veral different losses to handle at the same time and the sorrow after these needs space. We adults have to ma­ nage both our own and the child’s sorrow, and Kerstin Sjöbratt, also be able to manage Regional Manager, them being different,” BRIS West says Kerstin Sjöbratt, Regional Manager at BRIS West in Göte­ borg. On the BRIS Adult Helpline – about Children parents express their concern for how their children are feeling in connection with the parents’ divorce. They tell of strong emotional reactions of the children as well as sleeping difficulties and other physical reactions. The girl is often worried and has headaches. She has said that she is afraid that her dad doesn’t like her. The child lives with both her mum and dad alternately. Call with mother of a 9-year-old girl The mother is worried about her son. He is sad and doesn’t dare fall asleep at night. The parents have just been through a separation that’s taken a long time. Call with mother of a -year-old boy Sorrow is natural It is important to realise that feelings of sor­ row are a natural part of life and a normal and meaningful part of children’s development. Children’s sorrow must therefore also be met naturally and not be problemised unnecessa­ rily. Sorrow should not primarily be viewed as a problem area, but rather as something every child, young person and adult must relate to. As previously mentioned, young people often contact BRIS with an expe­ rience of sorrow that is a part of the gradual separation from their childhood and parents, which the teenage years entail. This sorrow can be expressed in many ways and needs to be affirmed and received by adults. When children in sorrow have contact with an adult who listens, the way is cleared for a sound and healing process. A child, whose sorrow is neglected or made light of, is at risk of dealing with these deep and often difficult to understand feelings on their own in a way that can be destructive for the future development of his or her personality. 2