Jenni Whitehead welcomes a valuable lifeline for adults living with the legacy of childhood abuse.

NAPAC, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, has set up a support line for adult survivors.

Over the course of a year I run a range of courses on child protection, both in-house and on a multi-agency basis. I receive an average of two disclosures per course from participants. Sometimes a person just wants to say, ‘This happened to me’ as they have sat through the training and have heard trainers describe something that they experienced as a child. This group of people often do not need any help; they just want to let someone know.

However, some people disclose because the training has brought something up unexpectedly and they have sat through the course struggling with a memory or a feeling that can be very distressing. This group of people may need further support and as a trainer I feel it is my  responsibility to be able to offer some direction as to where they can seek such support.

The groups of people that I train are for the most part professionals in senior positions and this sometimes makes it hard for them to feel comfortable approaching local services. They see themselves as people who offer others support, not as service users.

It is for this reason that I welcome this new support line for adult survivors. NAPAC is the only national charity set up to promote the needs of adults who have experienced emotional, physical, sexual abuse or neglect in childhood. The support line will offer a valuable lifeline to adults living with the legacy of childhood abuse.

In 2002, NAPAC piloted a free phone information line for two years and during that period received over 20,000 calls. Virtually 100% of calls reported abuse at the hands of someone very close to the child. NAPAC recognises that for many survivors it was not possible for them to disclose their abuse in childhood but as adults they feel more able, or more ready, or in some cases desperate to talk to someone about what happened to them.

NAPAC reports that the lasting effects of childhood abuse are enormous: the annual cost to the NHS of mental health in the UK is, according to the Sainsbury Centre for Mental health, a staggering £4.5bn. This doesn’t even include the cost of lost working days due to other problems such as ill health caused by alcoholism, eating disorders and sick leave.

Many survivors of childhood abuse are attracted to careers that allow them to feel that they are helping others. Some survivors feel that while they were not supported as children, they have an understanding of children who have been hurt by adults and they can use this to help children that they work with.

It is of course possible that members of staff in your school or service are also survivors of abuse and that they do not feel safe to seek help through local services. The helpline could provide them with  confidential support.

Support line 0800 085 3330