Stepping into the unknown What 16-18 year olds contacted ChildLine about in 2012/13

Teenage girl playing snookerChildLine provided over 54,000 counselling sessions to 16-18 year olds in 2012/13. Our report looks at the main concerns that 16-18 year olds contacted us about and the issues that this group are more likely to talk about than younger children. It focuses on depression and mental health, sexual abuse, partner abuse, growing up, sexuality and gender identity issues, pregnancy and being thrown out of home.

It highlights that better services are needed to support the needs of 16-18 year olds, in particular their transition to adulthood.

Authors: Michelle Turnbull, Rhiannon Davies and Gabrielle Antoniou
Published: 2013

  • We provided over 54,000 counselling sessions to 16-18 year olds in 2012/13.  
  • The top concerns were low mood and self-esteem; family relationships; suicide; and self-harm.
  • Sexual abuse, suicide and partner abuse were more frequent concerns for 16-18 year olds than for younger children.
  • Worries about their own sexuality, leaving care, pregnancy and being a parent also featured more in this age group.
  • Many young people were worried about the transition to employment and finding the money to pay bills.
  • Young people were often reluctant to seek support from professionals because they were worried about wasting the professionals’ time or that they would not be taken seriously.
Introduction and executive summary 3
Numbers at a glance 5
Key facts 6
Top ten concerns for 16-18 years olds 7
Section one: The mental wellbeing of 16-18 year olds 8
Section two: Sexual abuse and partner/domestic relationships 16
Section three: Forced to grow up 21
Section four: relevant and better services are needed for 16-18 year olds 28

"I don't know what to do, how to cope or who to turn to."

"I am really struggling to move forward with my life. I was abused when I was younger and the situation has been dealt with now but I keep having flashbacks about what happened. Every day it affects me. I just can't stop thinking about it and how it made me feel."

"You're expected to be able to cope because you're older, but becoming 18 is not like a magic wand – it doesn't make things suddenly easier."

Please cite as: Turnbull, M., Davies, R. and Antoniou, G. (2013) Stepping into the unknown. London: NSPCC.

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