The NSPCC is warning about the devastating impact of the pandemic on children, as new figures reveal Childline has held more than 3,000 counselling sessions about mental and emotional health with young people from Scotland since lockdown measures were first introduced.
The latest data from the NSPCC shows there has been an increase in contacts about this issue from children aged 12 to 15, across the country, since the end of March last year.
In the latter nine months of 2020, the average monthly number of contacts from this age group was 153 compared to 147 in the first three months of the year.
Across the UK, the service has now delivered a total of 54,926 counselling sessions to children of all ages on this issue from April to the end of December against the backdrop of the pandemic.
Childline counselling is delivered by volunteers and in response to these latest worrying figures and with COVID restrictions continuing, the service is urgently appealing to those who can spare four hours one evening a week or at the weekend to volunteer at either our Glasgow or Aberdeen base, so Childline can be here for children when they need us the most.
With schools closed to the majority of pupils until at least February and the whole of mainland Scotland in lockdown, Childline has never been more important as a source of support for young people who are struggling. Now more than ever, it is essential that children are not left isolated, alone and unsupported.
Over the past ten months, the NSPCC-run service’s trained counsellors have heard first-hand the devastating impact that the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic have had on young people’s mental health.
Children who contacted Childline’s trained counsellors about their mental health spoke about concerns including loneliness, low mood, low self-esteem, depression and anxiety.
Some have been feeling isolated and overwhelmed due to concerns about family members catching the virus, or school closures and cancelled exams – while others have felt cut off from support networks and are missing family and friends.
One girl aged 16 who contacted Childline said: “I feel really sad and lonely. I need to talk to someone because I don’t really have anyone right now. I am really struggling with the whole isolation thing. Most days I find myself just lost in my own thoughts and feeling numb. I am classed as a vulnerable person, so my isolation lasts for 12 weeks, which seems like a lifetime.”
Since the first lockdown last year, mental health has remained the top concern that children and young people talked to Childline about.
The service has delivered an average of 346 counselling sessions every month on this issue with the numbers fluctuating throughout the year as the situation changes and Covid restrictions were lifted and re-imposed. Since the latest national lockdown many children have been reaching out and talking about this and Childline is continuing to support them with their worries.
During the pandemic, Childline has continued to adapt to ensure it can still be here for children including developing online training so volunteers can answer emails from young people remotely. However, despite this, since last March volunteer numbers have dropped by 40%.
Volunteering for Childline is just one of the ways to help make 2021 a better year for children.
Despite, the latest national lockdown, Childline will remain open and staff and volunteers have been given key worker status to continue their vital work. Sparing a few hours, one evening a week or at the weekend volunteering at a local Childline base can help ensure Childline continues to support children who often have nowhere to turn.
But there is also a range of other ways to support the charity, including taking on a sponsored challenge, Kick the Caffeine, or fundraising in the community.
Lou Bewick, who is a Childline volunteer counsellor in the Glasgow base, said: “Each shift I work, I hear from children and young people about how this pandemic has affected their life, and how it has impacted their mental and emotional health.
“Childline is here for children, and will continue to offer support from trained counsellors when they contact us about anything that worries them.
“However, we currently can’t answer every child so, if you can, please sign up and volunteer for Childline and help us reach every child who needs our support.”
The NSPCC has been supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery who provided crucial funding of £1,000,000 to Childline last year, the equivalent of running the service for an entire month.
Children can call Childline on 0800 11 11 from 7.30am to 3.30 am from Monday to Friday or 9am to 3.30am on weekends. Or they can get in touch via www.childline.org.uk