Young people contacting ChildLine struggling with mental health issues

Four of the top 10 issues among young people relate to mental health problems, according to ChildLine's 2013-14 annual review

Girl hugging kneesThere was a 34 per cent increase in 2013/14 in counselling regarding mental health issues such as depression, panic attacks, bipolar, hallucinations and delusions, according to the ChildLine review: Under Pressure. Two-thirds of counselling sessions carried out by our national helpline relate to:

A young person struggling with panic attacks told ChildLine: "I'm feeling completely overwhelmed at the moment. My emotions are out of control... I get shaky and can't breathe and it takes me ages to calm down again."

Exam stress and school-related issues

School and education problems appeared in the top 10 issues for the first time, up 13 per cent on the previous year. School pressures and mental health concerns are closely linked with young people not wanting to disappoint their parents, confessing fear of failure and finding it hard to tackle the pressures linked to academic achievement. Exam stress saw a 200 per cent rise on the previous year.

Family conflict also fuelled the growing number of mental health related contacts. Young people spoke to ChildLine about issues affecting them at home such as divorce, separation and relationships in almost 81,000 counselling sessions.

"I just feel like crying all the time. I am stressed with exams and Mum is always shouting at me because she thinks I am not studying hard enough. She doesn't seem to realise that because of my home life it makes it harder to concentrate and focus at school."
Young person who contacted ChildLine

There was also an 87 per cent increase in sessions regarding online bullying with children saying that the 24/7 nature of the digital world gives them no means to escape. But the internet has also provided more opportunities to access help with 68 per cent of ChildLine counselling session taking place online via email and 1-2-1 online chat. Traffic to the ChildLine website also rose by 29 per cent, with over 3 million hits.

Dame Esther RantzenDame Esther Rantzen ChildLine founder said:
"It is clear that a cluster of problems, such as unhappiness in the family home, the increase in self-harm and eating disorders, the unrelenting intrusion of cyber bullying and the pressures at school are having a damaging effect on our children's mental wellbeing. We have seen a huge rise in the number of children suffering from mental health issues, leading to such serious problems as depression, self-harm and most devastatingly, suicidal thoughts.

"We must not only understand how to encourage young people to speak about their unhappiness, and treat these conditions more effectively, but also face up to the reality that far too many of the nation's children seem to be struggling alone and in despair. Those young people I have spoken to tell me that they cannot talk to anyone else, there is nobody in their lives to confide in, except ChildLine.

"It is crucial that counselling is available for children who need it, and that those who work with young people are alert to the symptoms of depression and isolation. It is all of our responsibility to ensure children can talk about issues and we must all look out for signs that they're not able to cope.

We must support and encourage our children to open up and if they can't talk to you, maybe they can talk to ChildLine."


Childline is our free 24/7, confidential helpline for children and young people. Whenever children need us, Childline is there to help – by phone, email or online.

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Abuse still remains a huge issue, as the fourth most common reason for young people reaching out. Almost 50,000 children and young people contacted ChildLine to say they were being abused, either sexually, physically or emotionally. The internet factored into this too, with a 168 per cent increase in counselling regarding online sexual abuse. However, there was a decrease in young people talking about direct touching and rape, as well as an 18 per cent decrease in physical abuse counselling.

For information about the issues and concerns of young people in 2013/14, download the full review today. 

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