Under-11s are increasingly calling Childline, the UK’s child counselling help service, with mental health concerns and even suicidal thoughts.
This concerning trend is highlighted by the organisation as it launches a new nationwide campaign – KIDS in Real Life – which aims to urge the public to help save a child’s life ‘in real life’.
Childline, which is provided by the National Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) says that in 2018/19 it provided 24,447 counselling sessions to young people who were plagued ‘by a sense of despair’, a rise of 25 per cent over three years.
Specific concerns about mental health
While most of those contacting Childline, which offers phone, email and online chat services, were teenagers, there has also been a sharp rise in youngsters aged 11 or under seeking help, 87 per cent since 2015/16.
Young callers with suicidal thoughts and feelings talked of specific concerns they had about mental health, self-harm, family relationships and problems at school and college. Girls were more likely than boys to talk about these feelings, with nearly five times as many receiving counselling sessions than their male counterparts.
The Kids in Real Life campaign – #KIDS_IRL – is highlighting that with so much of childhood today happening online, there are more ways than ever for children to hide how they really feel. “But behind the filters, feed and emojis, many of them are suffering – some are even thinking about taking their own life,” says Childline.
‘Many of them are suffering’
Childline, which is a registered charity, is there to help any young person or child in the UK and was set up as an independent organisation in 1986 before becoming part of the NSPCC in 2006. Through this new ‘Pledge to Protect’ initiative, Childline hopes to encourage more people to donate to its cause and help young people try and work through what problems they might be experiencing at home, school or, as is often the case these days, online.
Childline adds: “The internet can be amazing for amazing for kids but it can also leave them vulnerable – to abuse, to bullying, to extra pressures on their mental health. The truth is that childhood has changed. And it’s time we came together and pledged to protect young people – online and in real life.”
Dame Esther Rantzen, its founder and president, says: “Childline launched in 1986 and I remember that night vividly. 40 volunteers were valiantly trying to handle a staggering 50,000 calls. In an instant we could see just how essential the service was to the nation’s children. And it still is as essential as it ever was.
Click here for more information about Childline, including volunteers’ stories and personal accounts from children it has helped.