Childline: Number of suicidal children at record high

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MORE than 60 children, as young as the age of 10,  are calling Childline every day talking about suicide, according to the support organisation’s annual “Not Alone Anymore” review.

The NSPCC, which runs the helpline, is appealing for more Salford volunteers to handle the growing number of calls from desperate children.

Psychotherapist Angela Barrows said: “I think that the problem that I find more of now is the fact that as a society, a western society, we’re not used talking about mental health issues or things that don’t feel right because it’s not the kind of society to actually talk about its feelings all the time.

“If the parents are not used to talking about their own feelings either with their parents or with their partners or siblings it is very likely that they will have a similar relationship with their kids.

“In my experience, it’s been a case that parents and carers have got a lot of their personal issues going on and feel uncomfortable about talking to their children about their feelings. Young people don’t have anywhere to take it, they are feeling suicidal, anxious and all of that. They’re less likely to share it with counterparts, either because they want people to think they are okay, so they put a mask on in the morning and just pretend they are okay, even though they feel horrible, suicidal, and that’s the dangerous bit.”

The NSPCC offers a round-the-clock service, delivering 22,456 counselling sessions, which is up 15 per cent from the previous year, with children who were tortured by suicidal thoughts.

Volunteers at Childline, hundreds of them based in Salford, held 2,061 counselling sessions, which is a nine per cent  increase, with actively suicidal young people who had taken initial steps to take their own lives, such as writing notes, giving away items that have meaning to them, or planning their death.

The organisation has warned that young people need appropriate support. Without it they are bearing their troubles on their own and turning to Childline only when they reach a critical point.

The third most common reason to ring for girls and the fifth most common for boys is suicide. Family relationships, self-harm and mental health issues were the top three additional concerns mentioned during suicide counselling sessions.


Some of the young people that have contacted Childline have said that they had previously asked for professional support and some asked counsellors to act on their behalf and help them get the support they required faster.

Ms Barrows said: “It’s about making sure that mental health is not a stigma, where people don’t want to talk about it. It must become as equal as talking about your physical health. We must bring mental health to the same priority as physical health. If these issues are not dealt with at a younger age, what happens is that those 9-10 year olds get to teenagers, they’re still not solving their problems, they go through school, they get to university, go and get a job, then go into a relationship with someone and before you know it the cycle is starting all over again so when they have children they will pass it onto them.

“It’s important for them to be able to find somebody who they can relate to, somebody they know they can trust and open up to and feel safe, because it’s about prevention rather than intervention. Prevention is always the best place to start.”

The NSPCC is now calling on volunteers for Childline. Offering their time and counsel could help a child and even potentially save a life.

The founder and president of Childline, Esther Rantzen said: “Today’s tragic statistics prove that Childline is more crucial than ever and, for some, literally a lifeline.

“When Childline launched over 30 years ago, I remember children usually felt suicidal because they were being hurt by someone. Now young people tell us they are overwhelmed by mental health issues taking them to the brink of suicide. We must discover why so many of our young people feel so isolated they turn to Childline because they believe no one else cares about them.

“I would urge members of the public to consider becoming a Childline volunteer. Anyone who can lend a few hours to this vital service could end up saving a child’s life.”

NSPCC CEO Peter Wanless said: “We must face the painful reality that many young people feel so overwhelmed by their problems they have considered taking their own, precious lives. We have never seen figures like these before and they are a blunt wake up call.

“Young people must know life is worth living and they can lead a life rich in possibilities and happiness. When they are suffering from problems it’s vital they get the right help swiftly before these issues snowball into suicidal feelings or even attempts to end their lives. I would urge any child who is feeling this way to take that first step and talk to Childline; our counsellors are always there for them.”

The below comments are based on counselling sessions that took place during 2016/17 where the young person’s main concern was suicide. All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the child or young person. Quotes are created from real Childline contacts but are not necessarily direct quotes from the young person:

“I came out to one of my friends recently, I thought I could trust him but he told other people at school. Now everybody knows and I wasn’t ready for that. I’m being bullied constantly and I don’t know how to make it stop. I would tell a teacher but I don’t want to have to talk about my sexuality with school. It’s all got so overwhelming before that I’ve thought about just ending it all.” (Boy, 13)

“I’ve attempted suicide a few times before and I’m having the urge to do something bad tonight. I was sexually abused by my step-dad for years. When my family found out they disowned me, I normally cope by self-harming. Can you please help me?” (Girl, 16)

The data from Childline is displayed here:

 

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Childline is available on Freephone 0800 1111 24/7, and offers a confidential service to any child, or by contacting them here, for counselling chat, emails or message boards.

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