The NSPCC’s Childline has delivered 305 counselling sessions to young people in Scotland about gender identity and sexuality in the past year.

In more than 170 of these counselling sessions, young people mentioned coming out as a concern – an 11% increase from the previous year.

The children’s charity has released this data to mark Pride Month. Childline currently has around 370 volunteer counsellors, across its Glasgow and Aberdeen bases, who have heard first-hand how tough the past year has been for many children and young people due to challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic. Many have struggled with local lockdowns and being cut off from their usual support networks, while others have been worried about returning to school.

However, some young people described the lockdown as a time of reflection and a chance to take stock, and finding confidence to come out to their friends and family. Some also talked about feeling worried about the reaction they would get from other people.

A young person who spoke to Childline said: “I want to tell somebody that I’m gay but I just can’t find the courage to. I don’t want people to judge me or treat me any differently if they find out. Some people really hate gay people and I’m scared of what will happen if I tell someone”. (Girl, aged 12)

As restrictions continue to ease, it remains vital that all children and young people know where they can access help and support.

This Pride Month, Childline reminds young people that the service is here for them. All children can speak to a trained volunteer counsellor over the phone, via email or on a one-to-one chat on the Childline website.

The NSPCC also has information on it’s website for parents and carers on how to talk to children about their sexuality and advice on how to help keep them safe.

Lauren Burke, Childline Glasgow team manager, said: “At Childline, we know that coming out or speaking about sexuality and gender identity can be really challenging.

“Many children and young people who have spoken to our trained volunteer counsellors have described their time under lockdown as a period of reflection, a chance to think about important issues in their lives, both recent and historic.

“Some children with sexuality and gender concerns revealed that lockdown had been particularly hard for them, as they’d been cut off from their usual support networks. Whereas others told Childline that lockdown had given them the confidence and freedom to come out to their friends and family.

“No matter what a young person’s experience is with coming out or speaking about their gender identity or sexuality, at Childline we believe every young person has a right to be listened to and speak about any worries or questions they may have without feeling judged.

“If a young person feels unable to speak to a trusted adult in their life then we would encourage them to speak to Childline.”

Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk. Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111.