Open Up: Data shows boys are not reaching out for help

PUBLISHED: 13:40 20 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:47 20 June 2019

Will Hausrath, Childline coordinator and counsellor. Photo: Childline

Will Hausrath, Childline coordinator and counsellor. Photo: Childline


As part of the #EDPOpenUp campaign, Childline coordinator and counsellor Will Hausrath looks at the situation for boys struggling with their mental health.

Theresa May made a timely call to prioritise young people's mental health earlier this week, focussing on early intervention and support for teachers.

While spotting issues early is essential in preventing children from reaching crisis point, our research has also found that around 150 children a day are rejected by CAMHS in England with many others spending month after month on waiting lists.

Less than a third of children with a mental health problem are accessing treatment and support and a recent Children's Commissioner's report shows that in more than a third of the country spending on low-level services is decreasing.

With these fragmented services across the country, Childline plays an essential role in supporting children and young people with this issue with some children telling us we are their only source of help.

Last year, a quarter of all Childline counselling sessions were related to mental and emotional health while the number of young people we helped with issues around suicidal thoughts was at its highest-ever level.

Of 68,222 children contacting us about mental health in 2017/18, where the gender was known just 8,520 were boys. This highlights a real issue concerning boys not reaching out for help and talking about their mental health.

For this reason, Childline launched a Tough to Talk campaign targeted at boys and young men, encouraging them to speak out and get help if their struggling with their mental and emotional wellbeing.

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We created a video called Things Guys Don't Talk About to try to encourage boys to speak to someone if they are having suicidal thoughts and signposting them to the Childline website where there is lots of advice about dealing with these feelings.

And our one-to-one chat service makes it easier for young people to talk to a counsellor if they find it difficult to talk over the phone. It's the same service, with a real person, just behind the anonymity of a screen.

When councils in the East of England are spending the least in the country per child on low-level mental health services, which include support in schools, drop-in centres or online counselling, free confidential advice like that offered by Childline can become even more important.

Despite strained services it remains vitally important to prioritise the mental health of our young people and for adults to know what to do to help a young person who is struggling.

Adults may notice that children struggling with mental health issues have withdrawn from friends and family, have problems eating or sleeping, or have persistent low mood, irritability, anger or sadness.

If a young person opens up to you about their struggles, encourage them to make an appointment with their GP and let them know that NHS 111 is available out of hours to call at a time of crisis.

But if this is too daunting for them, or they don't know who to turn to, they can contact Childline, which is completely confidential. We're there - 24 hours a day, seven days a week - to listen to young people and suggest ideas to help their situations.

The Childline website includes sections on managing anxiety and getting through a tough time. These reassure young people that they are not alone and offer practical coping strategies which they can use straight away, such as writing down how they feel, doing breathing exercises and eating healthily. There are also helpful videos on the site as well as a messaging board where young people can share their experiences and get advice from others.

Importantly, if you think a young person is in immediate danger to themselves or others call 999 or take them to A&E.

Children and young people with any worries can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or, while adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC's free and confidential helpline on 0808 800 5000.

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