Last December was loneliest month for children contacting Childline

Our Childline service saw counselling sessions about loneliness peak over the festive period last year, with a record number of nearly 600 sessions provided on this topic in December alone1.


Many children and young people struggle with loneliness and isolation. During the pandemic, with schools closed and children forced to stay home, these feelings were heightened for many young people. Our Childline counsellors have also found these experiences were more prominent over the festive period last year when households were unable to mix. 

From April 2020 to March 2021 there were 6,039 counselling sessions about loneliness, marking an all-time high for a single year. This is an increase of nearly half (49%) over the past four years.

We’ve seen a particular increase in younger children affected by loneliness. In 2020/21, there was a 47% increase in counselling sessions with children aged 11 and under when compared to the year before.

Young people who contacted Childline about loneliness also talked about being unhappy, feeling unloved and generally low. Some described it as a dark experience that was overwhelming. As well as loneliness, the top reasons children turn to the service for support with their mental health include:

  • anxiety
  • stress
  • low mood
  • depression.


19-year-old Jake who called Childline in his darkest moments growing up said: 

“The struggles I had with my mental health led me to feel incredibly lonely, isolated and suicidal. Childline was there for me at my lowest points. I felt such relief that someone was genuinely listening to me. My story shows that, with Childline, there’s always hope. Even when life feels at its darkest. I could tell the Childline counsellors really cared.”

Childline supervisor Igor who supported Jake said: 

“When we talked to Jake, we helped him to try and manage what was going on and let him know Childline was there to listen whenever he needed someone to talk to. 

I know from the calls I receive at Christmas that pressures and dangers at home can reach crisis point. Without the chance to talk to someone who understands, these kinds of pressures can lead to children feeling incredibly low and isolated, increasing the risk of more serious mental health issues. The Childline service is here for children every day, even on Christmas Day. If we can listen, there’s so much we can do. In some cases, we can quite literally save their lives.

Despite the challenges of the past 18 months, as well as seeking support from Childline counsellors, young people accessed Childline online resources, information, and tools to support their mental health in ways and at times that were most convenient and helpful to them. Childline saw huge increases in the number of young people using the website to access information, advice and resources.”

Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder of Childline said: 


“At Childline we know how painful Christmas can be for some children, particularly when the media is filled with pictures of families happily celebrating together, and they are feeling alone and unloved. A child once described it to us as like looking through a shop window where everything inside is warm and bright, and you are outside where it’s cold and dark.

The festive period can be especially difficult for children who are struggling with their mental health or are in homes that are unsafe. Given the impact of the pandemic, it is no surprise that this year we’ve seen record numbers of children get in touch with us about loneliness. The lockdowns exacerbated these feelings for some young people, especially when schools had to close, and they couldn’t see the friends and family they loved and needed. 

Last Christmas was one of the toughest in living memory, bringing with it great sadness and challenges for many children. So we need to remind them that Childline is still there for them, and that they can contact us by phone or on-line, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.”

Walk for Children this Christmas

On the longest night of the year on 21 December, landmarks across the UK will light up green as people walk for children. 

Hundreds of people will walk 5k on this night to support us and the work we do to protect children and young people from abuse. As people take to the streets to walk, the landmarks lighting up green reflect all those hard working Childline counsellors who are there for children, offering a beacon of light in their darkest times.

Find out more


  1. 1. In December 2020 Childline delivered its highest number of counselling sessions about loneliness since the current recording method began, in 2016/17.