Figures show rise in lockdown counselling sessions for children

Elementary Age Girl in Child Occupational Therapy Session Doing Playful Exercises With Her Therapist

Childline counsellors delivered 54,926 counselling sessions regarding mental health to children of all ages in the last eight months of 2020 - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“I feel really sad and lonely. I need to talk to someone because I don’t really have anyone right now.

"I am really struggling with the whole isolation thing. Most days I find myself just lost in my own thoughts and feeling numb. I am classed as a vulnerable person, so my isolation lasts for 12 weeks, which seems like a lifetime.”

These are the words of a 16-year-old girl who contacted Childline.

Last week we looked at how mental health has impacted children across the UK and offered advice to parents on how to spot the signs.

This week Childline gave further insight into the impact the pandemic has had on our children across the UK by revealing that Childline counsellors have delivered 54,926 counselling sessions regarding mental health to children of all ages between just April and December last year.

These new findings also showed the scale of how the pandemic has impacted children aged 11 and under, with the average monthly number of counselling sessions for emotional and mental health in the past nine months being 16% higher than at the start of last year.

Childline has also seen the average monthly number of contacts regarding loneliness increase by 10% for all age groups compared to the pre-lockdown period in January – March.

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Many children have discussed how they’re feeling isolated and often overwhelmed due to concerns about family members catching the virus, or school closures and cancelled exams. Others have talked about how they feel cut off from support networks and that they miss family and friends. Children who contacted Childline’s trained counsellors about their mental health also spoke about concerns including loneliness, low mood, low self-esteem, depression and anxiety.

For the last ten months, our Childline counsellors have worked tirelessly to ensure we’re here for children and we know we are needed now more than ever. It is essential that children are not left isolated, alone or unsupported.

We know that schools will be closed to the majority of pupils until at least mid-February and that most of the UK is likely to remain in lockdown during this time. Childline has never been more important as a source of support for children who are struggling.

We also know that since the first lockdown began last year, mental health has remained the top concern that children of all ages spoke about. During this time Childline has delivered between 5,000 to 7,000 counselling sessions every month on this issue, with numbers fluctuating as COVID restrictions were lifted and then re-imposed.

During these difficult times Childline has continued to adapt so our volunteers can still be here for children and this has included developing online training so volunteers can answer emails from young people remotely. However, since last March our volunteer numbers have dropped by 40%.

Our NSPCC-run Childline counselling service is delivered by volunteers and these latest figures coupled with ongoing pandemic restrictions show that we urgently need more help. That is why we are appealing to individuals who can spare four hours one evening a week or at the weekend to volunteer to ensure that Childline can continue to be here for children when they need us the most.

This latest lockdown will still see Childline remain open and staff and volunteers will retain key worker status to continue this essential work.

Sparing just a few hours, one evening a week or at the weekend, volunteering at a local Childline base can help ensure children have a place to turn to when they feel they have nowhere else to turn.

There are also other ways to support the charity including taking on a sponsored challenge or fundraising in the community. To find out more visit https://bit.ly/3icZP2f.

Childline is here for children free and confidentially on 0800 1111 or children can visit www.childline.org.uk