Childline counselling session every 11 minutes about key mental health issues

Over 50,000 Childline counselling sessions about self-harm, suicidal feelings, mental health or depressive disorders last year

Girl with phone

There were over 92,000 Childline counselling sessions with children and young people about mental health and wellbeing in 2015/16. Of these over 50,000 related to suicidal feelings, self-harm, mental health or depressive disorders.

This is an average of 1 counselling session every 11 minutes. Our figures reveal:

  • 50,819 counselling sessions about these mental health issues in 2015/161.
  • 1 in 6 of all Childline counselling sessions were focused on these mental health issues2
  • girls were almost 7 times more likely to seek help than boys3.

The worrying figures raise further concerns about the level of mental health care available to children and young people desperate for professional support and treatment. 

Children are seeking help for a range of issues 

The statistics highlight how young people are increasingly dealing with a range of problems that include depressive disorders, self-harm and suicidal feelings.

The sharpest increase in counselling sessions delivered over the last 4 years were for mental health and depressive disorders, up by 36%4.

There was also an increase in the number of counselling sessions about suicidal feelings.

More than 1 in 3 counselling sessions about these mental health issues were with 12-15 year olds5.

We must ensure every child gets support after abuse

Up to 9 in 10 children who are abused at an early age will go on to develop a mental illness by the time they're 18.  

It's 1 year since we launched our It's Time campaign calling for the Government to ensure that young people who've experienced abuse have access to the right mental health support.

We must ensure that a child who's lived through abuse doesn't reach crisis point before they get help. 

"I want to know what’s wrong with me. I’ve been seeing a counsellor about my mental health issues recently but they just told me to eat and sleep better and forget about the past which didn’t help me at all. I wish I could speak to someone who actually cared about me and I felt comfortable talking to."
16-year-old girl who contacted Childline

Signs of mental health issues

Early signs of a serious mental health problem in children and young people include:

  • becoming withdrawn from friends and family
  • tearfulness and irritability
  • sudden outbursts of anger directed at themselves or others
  • problems eating or sleeping.

How you can support a child

The first step to helping your child address a serious mental health problem is to talk to them in a safe and secure environment about exactly how they’re feeling.

If they’re reluctant to open up you can direct them to Childline, which is available around the clock.

If you think the problem requires medical support you should take your child to the family GP who will decide if and what professional treatment is required.  

Dame Esther Rantzen

Dame Esther Rantzen, President of Childline said:
"It's striking how many more children seem to be suffering serious mental health problems today than when we launched Childline 30 years ago.

"So many desperately unhappy children seem to be suffering suicidal thoughts, self-harming, becoming anxious and depressed, with many of them turning to Childline because no other support is available.

"We know CAMHS are terribly overstretched, meaning that young people aren't able to access the professional help they need. We believe there needs to be far more emphasis on providing help for these children as they struggle to deal with what are very serious illnesses."


  1. 29,636 counselling sessions concerning mental health were delivered to girls while 4,358 counselling sessions were from boys. The number of sessions where the gender was unknown was 16,825. The total counselling sessions equal 50,819.

  2. Childline delivered 18,690 counselling sessions concerning issues around suicidal feelings, self harm and mental health/depressive disorders from 12-15 year olds. 12,828 counselling sessions with 16-18 year olds and 925 counselling sessions with under 11’s. The number of counselling sessions where the age was unknown was 18,376.

  3. Childline delivered 301,413 counselling sessions in 2015/16. In 291,753 children talked about their own concerns and in 9,660 they contacted us with concerns about another child or young person.

  4. In 2015/16 Childline delivered 12,867 counselling sessions for mental health and depressive disorders. In 2011/12 Childline delivered 9,474 sessions about this issue.

  5. There were a total of 92,891 counselling sessions related to mental health and wellbeing in 2015/16. Of these 50,819 related to: suicidal feelings (19,481), self harm (18,471) and mental health / depressive disorders (12,867). A further 42,072 counselling sessions related to low self-esteem/unhappiness.