Childline is handling soaring numbers of calls from children seeking help for suicidal thoughts, a new report has revealed. The NSPCC service held 19,481 counselling sessions about suicide in 2015/16 – equal to one every half an hour. The number of contacts from young people plagued by thoughts of ending their own lives is more than double the level seen five years ago.
Turbulent home lives, abuse, school pressures and mental health conditions were all triggers for suicidal thoughts, with children as young as 10 voicing their desperation.
Childline president Dame Esther Rantzen described the figures as “deeply disturbing”. She said: “I would urge any young person who feels this way to contact us. It really does make a difference to speak to someone who cares about you, and wants to listen.” Girls were six times more likely to contact Childline about suicidal thoughts and feelings than boys, while those most at risk were aged between 12 and 15. Children tended to feel more desperate in the winter months, with a third calling at night. Counsellors had to alert emergency services on average six times a day about youngsters who were talking about suicide.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “We have to understand why so many children are reaching such a desperate emotional state that they feel they have no option but to end their lives. As a society, we cannot be content that a generation of children feel so worthless, alone and cut off from support, it is up to all of us to help them feel that life is worth living.”
Childline held 301,413 counselling sessions in 2015/16, compared with 286,812 in 2014-15, it was revealed as the service published its annual report. There was an increase in the number of young people who spoke about their mental health, with almost a third of the sessions concentrating on the issue.
The Samaritans provides a free support service for those who need to talk to someone. It can be contacted through Samaritans.org or on 08457 90 90 90, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year