Thousands of young people speak to Childline about mental health and abuse during the pandemic

Nearly 90,000 counselling sessions were delivered in the last year by the NSPCC’s Childline service to young people worried about mental health or abuse.

Over the last year, there’s been growing concern about the impact of the pandemic on children’s wellbeing and on young people living in homes that aren’t safe. The 1,200 Childline volunteer counsellors, as well as supporters and partners have worked hard to keep the service open to give young people somewhere to turn.

The NSPCC’s latest Childline data shows the huge toll the pandemic has had on young people. From 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021:

  • their Childline service has carried out 73,088 counselling sessions about mental or emotional health
  • 5,646 of these counselling sessions were with children aged 11 or under, an increase of nearly a third (29%) when compared to the year before
  • they also delivered 16,610 counselling sessions about abuse
  • counselling sessions about emotional abuse increased by 18% when compared to the year before.

The NSPCC have seen that many children have been proactive in taking steps to support their own emotional wellbeing during this time. More young people have been accessing the online Childline resources, information and tools to support their mental health in ways that are helpful to them.

Now they want to see the government invest in a plan for children that goes beyond catching up on lessons and includes more mental health support both in the classroom and in the community.

A 10 year old boy said:

“I’m feeling really sad and upset that I can’t spend time with friends and play with them because of another lockdown.

“I’m not returning to school for another 5 or 6 weeks and the news about the number of deaths from COVID-19 has made me more scared. I don’t feel like I can tell my mum how I feel inside as it will upset her.”

Dame Esther Rantzen, founder of Childline, said:

“Throughout this pandemic, children and young people have had to deal with so many difficult new challenges, many knowing that their families were struggling with health worries and financial issues, some locked down in unsafe homes, deprived of their schools which may have been their only refuge. Many have told Childline that they have struggled to cope and their mental health has suffered as a result.

“Childline’s counsellors have been tremendously impressed by the resilience of so many young people during the pandemic, supporting themselves and each other. Nevertheless, we are all only too aware that not only education has suffered, but so has the opportunity to play. My grandchildren have told me how much they have missed their friends during lockdown. Play is such an important part of childhood, building confidence and creating relationships. After the year we’ve had, I am really looking forward to joining my own family on Childhood Day. I do hope as many families as possible will be able to do the same, to enjoy each other’s company and have fun and play together.

“I want to remind children everywhere that Childline is always there for them, no matter how big or small their problem, offering comfort and support which is free, confidential, on the phone or online.”