Children and young people in crisis as calls to Leeds' Childline base rocket

Increasingly anxious children and young people are turning to the charity Childline for support, as the Coronavirus pandemic affects their lives.

Friday, 27th March 2020, 5:00 pm
More children and young people are turning to Childline for support

An unprecedented demand for Childline’s services peaked with calls on March 18, the day the Prime Minister confirmed UK schools would close. On that day, counsellors delivered 121 sessions to worried young people in one day.

Well over 900 counselling sessions have been held with children and young people about Coronavirus so far, with nearly two thirds taking place as parents started working from home and school closures were announced.

At the Yorkshire Childline base in Leeds, trained counsellors delivered 39 sessions to young people. Over half were counselled for their mental and emotional health as they struggled to cope with issues like isolation, arguments at home, and the removal of professional support from schools and the NHS.

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One teenage girl said: “I feel really anxious, upset and lonely. The news has made my mental health worse but my CAMHS appointment has been cancelled and school has closed. I’m stuck at home having a horrible time because my sisters are bullying me because I’m autistic.”

Government has given Childline staff and volunteers key worker status as they battle to keep the vital service running.

Some counsellors have had to leave to self-isolate, but it continues to be a lifeline for very vulnerable children.

Last week Childline delivered over 50 counselling sessions with children who were having suicidal thoughts, exacerbated by Coronavirus as they felt trapped and isolated. Children sense the seriousness of the situation through parents’ reactions.

One girl said: “My mum is being very distant with me and I am usually very close to her, it’s really upsetting me. She’s really obsessed with the news and won’t hug me or get very close to me. It scares me to think this will go on for months.” Most young people contacting Childline are 12-15-year-old girls.

Dame Esther Rantzen, founder of Childline, said: “Sometimes young people find it difficult to share anxieties with their parents, for fear of worrying them further. So, it is important that families talk about their feelings together.” Peter Wanless, CEO of NSPCC, said: “The 24/7 news cycle about Coronavirus is causing huge anxiety in young people – particularly those who are coping with many other issues in their lives. Childline provides an essential service to vulnerable children, some of whom may be in a life-threatening situation, which is why our staff and volunteers are working tirelessly to keep Childline running.

“Keeping children safe and providing them with a space to talk about their concerns is our number one priority.”

Dame Esther Rantzen said: “Childline needs your help to let children and young people know that we are still here for them, and if they need someone to turn to, they can contact Childline via our website or on the phone.”

Young people who need to talk can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or via 1-2-1 chat on www.childline.org.uk.

There is also a huge online community where children can get support from their peers on message-boards.

If adults are worried about children, they can get advice from NSPCC experts on 0808 800 5000 or email [email protected]