Helpline sees rise in counselling sessions with children over mental health concerns amid pandemic
A children’s helpline is warning about the devastating mental health impact on young people after new figures revealed a 13% increase in the number of counselling sessions being delivered during lockdown.
NSPCC Cymru/Wales says 1,934 counselling sessions were delivered to children and young people from Wales between April and December 2020 – an average of 215 every month.
Childline counselling is delivered by volunteers, but the impact of COVID-19 on the charity’s volunteer workforce means the service in Wales has less than half of the number of active volunteers it usually aims for.
Coupled with the latest worrying figures of rising mental health concerns and continuing Welsh Government restrictions, the NSPCC is urgently appealing to those who can spare four hours one evening a week or at the weekend to volunteer.
Over the past ten months, trained counsellors for the NSPCC-run service have heard first-hand the devastating impact that the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic have had on young people’s mental health.
Children and young people in Wales who contacted Childline about their mental health spoke about concerns including loneliness, low mood, low self-esteem, depression and anxiety.
Some have been feeling isolated and overwhelmed due to concerns about family members catching the virus, or school closures and cancelled exams – while others have felt cut off from support networks and are missing family and friends.
A 12-year old girl from Wales who contacted Childline said: “My dad has left and cut off all contact with me and it has really affected me.
“I try to convince myself that I am ok, but I am really struggling and walk around with a fake smile. I tried to tell my mum how I feel, but she didn’t listen or understand, it was like she didn’t care.
“Dad abused and cheated on mum so I guess she finds it hard to hear that I miss him. I need help as I keep thinking about running away.”
And, a 15-year-old boy from Wales told Childline: “I am feeling so overwhelmed and I am scared for my mental health. I am forcing myself to get out of bed and have lost interest in everything.
“I am scared that I am not going to succeed in life and feel like a freak. I used to self-harm but managed to stop, but I am getting strong urges to self-harm again.
“It is really nice to have someone to talk to who I won’t upset.”
Since the first lockdown last year, mental health has remained the top concern that children and young people talk to Childline about.
The latest data from the children’s charity reveals that counsellors at its Childline service across the UK have now delivered a total of 54,926 counselling sessions to children of all ages who contacted the service for support with mental and emotional health issues from April to the end of December.
Ewa Turczanska, a former dermatologist, has been volunteering as a Childline counsellor in Wales for 15 years. She says: “I’ve heard first-hand the devastating impact the pandemic has had on children’s mental health and well-being.
“As children’s lives continue to be impacted by the pandemic, it is vital that myself and my fellow volunteer counsellors continue to be here to listen to children’s worries and support them.
“However, we currently can’t answer every child so, if you can, please sign up and volunteer for Childline and help us reach every child who needs our support.”
Cardiff and Prestatyn are home to two of the 12 Childline bases UK-wide and during the pandemic the service has continued to adapt to ensure it can still be here for children including developing online training so volunteers can answer emails from young people remotely. However, despite this, since last March volunteer numbers UK-wide have dropped by 40%.
Senior Supervisor for Childline in Wales, Louise Israel added: “Since the latest national lockdown many children have been reaching out and talking about their emotional and mental health and Childline is continuing to support them with their worries.
“Childline gives them a free and safe space to talk about anything that might be bothering them – no matter how big or small it might seem. The service we provide can be life-changing for children and young people who contact Childline, but often for our volunteers too.
“We’re urgently in need of more volunteers at our bases in Cardiff and Prestatyn to help us answer contacts from children and young people who are often very vulnerable.”
Childline Founder and President, Dame Esther Rantzen says: “With schools now shut again and children spending more time behind closed doors, it is absolutely imperative that Childline is there for them.
“Many young people, especially those in unsafe homes, are feeling desperately anxious and depressed. School can be the only safe haven they know, and without that support they feel entirely alone.
“For them, Childline is literally a life-line. But the service urgently needs more volunteers to listen to and support children, and more funds to pay for their calls and on-line contacts, and for that we depend upon the generosity and compassion of the public. It is the NSPCC’s mission to make 2021 a better year for children, and with your help we can make this dream a reality.”
More information about volunteering and fundraising is available on the charity’s website or via volunteer adverts from Childline Cardiff or Childline Prestatyn. Successful applicants are asked to give a minimum 4.25 hours per week as a Childline counsellor, and receive a comprehensive training package.
Anyone interested in finding out more about what the role entails and how to apply can contact:
Childline Prestatyn via Sally.King-Sheard@nspcc.org.uk or 01745 772 100.
Children can call Childline on 0800 11 11 from 7.30am to 3.30 am from Monday to Friday or 9am to 3.30am on weekends. Or they can get in touch via www.childline.org.uk
Anyone with any concerns about the welfare of a child can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or visit nspcc.org.uk for advice.
Picture credit: Tom Hull
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