Rise in calls to Childline about in-patient mental health treatment

The number of young people contacting Childline about in-patient mental health concerns has jumped by almost a fifth in the last year.

We delivered 621 counselling sessions1 in 2023 where being sectioned or hospitalised for mental health issues was discussed. This was up 18% on the previous year.

The new Helplines Insight Briefing looks at young people’s experiences of in-patient mental health care based on contacts to Childline and the NSPCC Helpline.

It reveals that young people often feel they’re not listened to during their admissions, treatment and discharge from hospital settings, including when important decisions are made about their care.

Services like Childline provide children with a safe place to be themselves and seek free and confidential support. This helps them manage their emotional challenges and feel connected. The voices of young people are an integral and powerful part of our briefing.

Read the briefing

A 15-year-old girl2 said: “I hate it in here. It’s not just the noise, the boredom and controlling staff checking up on me every five minutes.

"It’s also the fact I have to be around other people struggling like me. I find it quite triggering, like if I see other patients’ scars it makes me want to cut again. Sometimes I worry I’m more at risk here than in the outside world.”

A 17-year-old boy2 said: “I feel neglected and abandoned. I’m in a psychiatric ward and none of the staff bother to talk to me and ask if I’m okay. All they do is check to see if I’m in my room or not. I feel like things are not changing, I still feel hopeless and suicidal. I’ve been left alone in this room the whole time, sometimes I feel like a ghost.”

The findings show that every child’s experience of mental health is different, and so it’s crucial that they feel listened to and consulted. This is to ensure they receive the best care and support.

Vicky Nevin, Policy Manager at the NSPCC said: “Mental health is the number one reason children and young people contact Childline. Some need a listening ear and access to early mental health support while others are already receiving treatment but feel ignored when decisions are being made about their care.

“Preventative mental health support should be available for every baby, child and young person. But there will always be some who need more specialist care in a hospital, and they should be treated with compassion and respect. They should understand what is happening to them and be given a say in what will help.

“We need ambitious commitments from party leaders to improve mental health support for children and to put their voices at the heart of policy making.”

Alongside Action for Children, Barnardo’s, The Children’s Society and The National Children’s Bureau, we’re urging all political parties to address the escalating mental health crisis faced by young people.

The Children at the Table campaign, backed by over 190 organisations, wants children and young people at the heart of policy making ahead of the General Election.

The charities are seeking significant investment in improving young people’s mental health and wellbeing as part of an overall call to increase the proportion of national wealth spent on children.

Read the briefing


  1. 1. From 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023 Childline delivered 105,366 counselling sessions on all mental and emotional health and wellbeing topics. 621 of these specifically mentioned being sectioned or hospitalised for mental health, an 18% increase compared to the previous year.

  2. 2. Snapshots are based on real Childline and NSPCC Helpline service users but are not necessarily direct quotes.