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 our Childline service to young people worried about mental health or abuse.


Over the last year, we’ve grown concerned about the impact of the pandemic on children’s wellbeing and on young people living in homes that aren’t safe. Our 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. 

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

  • our 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
  • we also delivered 16,610 counselling sessions about abuse
  • counselling sessions about emotional abuse increased by 18% when compared to the year before.

We’ve 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 our online Childline resources, information and tools to support their mental health in ways that are helpful to them. 

Now we 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 told us:

“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.”

Here to help keep children safe

If you're worried about a child, we're here to provide support and advice to help you. Whatever your concern, you can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 Monday to Friday 8am – 10pm or 9am – 6pm at the weekends, or email us at any time at [email protected]

Childhood Day 2021

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As lockdown continues to ease, we’re now encouraging people everywhere to play your part in giving children a great summer and brighter future with Childhood Day. 

On June 11th, it’s time to get playing after a challenging year. We want you to come together to celebrate childhood by organising a play event to raise money and help children keep safe. 

Whether you’re 5 or 85, we want to see everyone get involved to play with family, friends or workmates.

Get involved


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.”    

Mindfulness guide for families

Concerned about your child's mental health? Our best-selling mindfulness guide is filled with exercises, activities, and coping strategies for when your child is struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. 

Get your mindfulness guide

Getting mental health support for your child

Supporting a child with a mental health problem like depression or anxiety can be really hard and it’s important for a young person to speak to their GP about professional help if they’re struggling. This should be the first step you take if you’re worried a child may have a mental health problem. Sometimes a GP will prescribe medication to help a child or young person with depression or anxiety symptoms.

Your child may want to speak to their GP on their own or they may want you to be there with them. It’s important for you to support their decision if they’d prefer to talk to a GP alone, as sometimes young people can find it easier to talk about their feelings with someone they don’t know.

Childline is a free and confidential service for young people under 18. Children can talk to a trained counsellor over the phone, online via 1-2-1 chat or via email about anything that’s worrying them, 24 hours a day. Many young people find it easier to be honest about their mental health with someone they don’t know.

Childline also have lots of information and advice for young people on how to cope with mental health problems.

Their website also offers advice and coping techniques for:

It can also help to speak to someone at your child’s school, like their teacher. Your school should be able to provide someone who your child can speak to regularly about their mental health, such as a school counsellor. Ask your child if there’s a teacher at their school they might feel comfortable speaking to. 

If your child has been feeling unhappy or anxious for a long time, or is showing signs of self-harm or suicidal thoughts, it’s important to consider professional help so that they can get the support they need.

Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) is a free NHS service for children and young people under 18. CAMHS can help young people who are struggling with serious mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, panic attacks or eating problems.

Referral is usually done through your child’s GP and unfortunately it can take up to several weeks for an initial assessment. Social services can also refer young people to CAMHS if they’re already supporting your child.
Sometimes parents come to the first appointment with their child, or may be offered family therapy but often your child will see a CAMHS worker on their own. This is important as it can help children to be more honest about how they’re feeling.

Young Minds have advice for parents about supporting children with a range of mental health problems.

The Mix offer advice on a range of topics for young people under 25. They have a 24-hour crisis messenger for young people who need help right away.