New data published today by Childline reveals that the service is contacted 15 times a day on average by children across the UK who are struggling with loneliness – often a catalyst for mental health problems.
Between April 2021 and March 2022, the counselling service run by the NSPCC delivered 5,564 counselling sessions with children across the UK on this issue.
With the support of retailer Lidl GB – which has fundraised for Childline since 2020 – the charity has launched a campaign this week called ‘Day in the Lonely’ to let children struggling with loneliness know that these feelings do not need to last.
Amidst the long-lasting consequences of COVID-19 and the drastic increase in the cost of living, the charity is encouraging young people – with the support of their parents – to speak about their mental health issues early on, so it does not escalate to crisis point.
The charity’s concern comes as it finds a 71% increase in calls from under 11s seeking support for loneliness compared to 2017/2018 figures.
Recently, a Childline counsellor was told by a 10-year-old girl: “I am so lonely as I have no friends at school anymore. I often cry myself to sleep at night…so I called Childline. I have not told my parents how I am feeling because I don’t think they will take it seriously.”
A Childline counsellor was told by a 17-year-old girl from Scotland: “I have been feeling extremely lonely recently as I feel like all of my friends secretly hate me and don’t want me around no matter how many times they tell me they do like me. This has been something that is making me quite sad and I feel like I don’t have anyone to talk to, so I was just wondering if you have any advice for dealing with this?”
‘Day In the Lonely’
The ‘Day in the Lonely’ campaign includes three videos showing a day in the life of three young people and the different ways they experience loneliness, all of them based on real Childline calls. One of the videos features Rob – who is feeling lonely and misunderstood despite having lots of people around him – being in a football team and regularly socialising.
Childline’s trained counsellors hear from lonely children who feel that way due to being left out of friendship groups and social media chats, whereas others say their loneliness stems from feeling negatively about themselves or feeling like their friends or family don’t understand them.
Young people told Childline that the national lockdown, due to the coronavirus pandemic, compounded feelings of loneliness
Counselling sessions on loneliness peaked during the pandemic in April 2020 to March 2021 when the service remained a frontline service supporting more than 6,000 young people who were grappling with this issue whilst spending an increased amount of time at home.
Since moving out of the pandemic, although the service has seen a slight drop in counselling sessions on this issue, the number of children needing support remains high.
Adeniyi Alade, Childline Service Head, based in Aberdeen, said: “Sadly a high number of children and young people contact us because they are experiencing loneliness. At Childline, we know that this can have a profound impact on a child’s mental wellbeing and mental health.
“Many children tell us they feel alone, low and depressed, and that’s why we are encouraging children to talk to a trusted adult such as a parent, teacher or Childline counsellor so they can get the help they need quickly.
“There are many reasons why young people might feel lonely, but these feelings don’t have to last forever and getting support early can help to prevent the situation from getting worse.”
Mark Newbold, Lidl GB Senior CSR Manager, said: “It’s heartbreaking to see young people struggle with loneliness, and that is why at Lidl we are proud to have funded the NSPCC’s ‘Day in the Lonely’ campaign.
“We are committed to raising funds that mean more youngsters in need of emotional support can get the help they require as fast as possible.”
Children and young people can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice 24 hours a day online at www.childline.org.uk or on the phone on 0800 1111.”
Headline image: NSPCC Childline Loneliness campaign. Child pictured is a model
Photo Credit: Childline