·         Childline data reveals there have been nearly 22,000 counselling sessions about mental health and wellbeing since lockdown, including almost 2,000 with 11-year-olds and under

·         The NSPCC urges Government to prioritise a children’s recovery plan including mental health support, alongside health and the economy

·        Childline has seen an increase in young children getting in touch about their mental health and emotional wellbeing, with counselling sessions going up by 37% for 11-year-olds and under compared to before the lockdown.

The NSPCC run service is publishing its latest data which reveals that since the beginning of lockdown there have been nearly 22,000 counselling sessions about mental health concerns. Counselling sessions about this topic peaked in May, when the service delivered 15% more than the pre-lockdown monthly average.

The NSPCC grows increasingly concerned that children are the hidden victims of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, with Childline providing a vital lifeline to children whose counselling sessions have shown that mental health is their top concern.

Throughout the pandemic young people have told counsellors they are feeling low, unhappy, overwhelmed and more recently talked about the anxiety they feel as we look to come out of lockdown.

An eight year-old-girl told Childline:

“I am feeling sad and worried. I am scared of Covid-19 and feel like my family don’t care about me. I don’t get any attention and am always fighting with my mum. I live with just my mum and don’t see dad much. We live in a tiny flat and sometimes we get so angry with each other we end up fighting. After we have had a fight I hurt myself because I feel like I am not good enough.”

The number of counselling sessions where children mentioned worries about the world more than doubled compared to before lockdown and the easing of lockdown has increased anxiety levels for some young people. They have shared concerns about returning to school, catching the virus, classwork, exams and how school life will be now.

Angela, Childline London Base counsellor from Surrey, said: “Throughout the pandemic young people have been telling us about their mental health, about how they have been feeling low, unhappy, overwhelmed, and experiencing anxiety. And as we come out of the lockdown they’re talking to us about their concerns going back to school, catching the virus, the class work that they’ve missed out on, and catching up with exams.

“Children have also told us about family relationships. They’ve shared with us about some of the arguments that have gone on at home. The increased levels of parental stress and some have told us about the abusive home environments they’re living in. All these issues have really impacted on their mental health. And at Childline we know that by providing a safe and confidential place to share their story and to give them the emotional support to understand their situation we can empower children to seek help with their problems before these issues totally overwhelm them.”

The NSPCC recently joined 150 charities and organisations to call on the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to put children on a par with health and the economy when it comes to recovery. This requires additional investment in support for children’s mental health and wellbeing in schools, as well as a coordinated plan from Government that demonstrates how services will respond to the likely increase in referrals as a result of lockdown.

Esther Rantzen, Founder of Childline said: “The Coronavirus pandemic has turned children’s lives upside down, cutting them off from the places they have relied upon in the past for comfort and support. During lockdown, the virus has imprisoned them in homes which may not be safe, with emotional and physical abuse, violence, or neglect. This has meant many young people have turned to Childline as their only lifeline, and have shared with us that they are unable to cope, and are desperate for help. We know that by providing children with a safe, confidential way to share their anxiety, as well as timely support so they can describe their feelings, we can help to prevent their problems totally overwhelming them. 

“At Childline we have always provided a vital listening ear for our young people who know we are there for them, and our website offers practical help to calm and reassure them. But as lockdown eases, and as life continues to feel uncertain and challenging, it is essential that in addition to Childline our children have access to the mental health resources they will need to help them cope.”

As children continue to struggle with the uncertainty that surrounds them and with many in homes that are unsafe, funding for the NSPCC’sStill Here for Children appeal has never been more important. The charity is asking the public to donate £10 so it can continue to run services like Childline that are providing vital support to children during the pandemic.

Since the start of the year, Childline has delivered 11,783 counselling sessions related to the Coronavirus. During this time, the service has seen the way that young people get in touch change, including an increase in the number of young people emailing via Childline’s personal inbox.

Despite Childline having to close the night service for the first time and having a 30% drop in volunteer hours, due to counsellors having to self-isolate, it continues to battle to still be there for children across the UK.

The NSPCC has praised NHS staff for their work with young people remotely during the lockdown and urged children and families to reach out to the GPs for support.