The NSPCC’s 24-hour helpline dealt with 19,481 sessions for young people contemplating taking their life in 2015, the annual report ‘It Turned Out Someone Did Care’ revealed.
That’s the equivalent of one session every half an hour, or 53 a day.
Many of the calls dealt with by counsellors had to be referred to emergency services.
“It is deeply disturbing that in the past year nearly 20,000 children and young people contacted Childline because they felt so deeply unhappy that many of them wanted to take their own lives,” said Dame Esther Rantzen, president of Childline.
“It is crucial that we ask ourselves why children in this country feel so lonely, and so desperate, that they have to turn to Childline for help and support.”
Girls were six times more likely to contact Childline about suicidal thoughts and feelings than boys. Those at most risk were aged between 12 and 15.
Home life, abuse, school pressures, and mental health conditions were all major triggers for suicidal thoughts.
One 15-year-old girl said on the line: “I am so stressed out with schoolwork and I’ve got exams coming up which is causing arguments with my family.
“I don’t know if I can cope much longer so I have been thinking about suicide and have planned how to do it. For now, self-harming helps but every time I cut, they get deeper and I’m scared it’s going to go too deep one day.”
The report states that children calling Childline in 2015 tended to feel more desperate in the winter months and a third called Childline counsellors at night.
The number of calls has increased 120% compared to five years ago when Childline held 8,835 counselling sessions about suicide.
There was also a significant rise in the number of young people who spoke about their mental health, with a third of sessions concentrating on the issue.
The charity said counsellors saw an 87% increase in young people struggling to access professional help predominantly for mental health services, blaming lengthy waiting lists, lack of information, or refusal of help.
One 13-year-old girl told counsellors: “I’m a nobody, I’m worthless and I feel like I don’t mean anything to anyone.
“My friends only invite me to things out of pity and school makes me feel very anxious and sad. I think everyone would be better off if I wasn’t here.”
NSPCC’s CEO Peter Wanless said of the report: “We have to understand why so many children are reaching such a desperate emotional state that they feel they have no option but to end their lives.
“As a society, we cannot be content that a generation of children feel so worthless, alone and cut off from support, it is up to all of us to help them feel that life is worth living.
“Children shouldering mental health problems often feel left in the shadows, their pain is not obviously visible and their injuries cannot be mended with bandages.
“We must listen to them, find out what is troubling them, and help them overcome their problems.”
Commenting on the report, Nick Harrop, campaigns manager at YoungMinds told The Huffington Post UK: “It’s alarming that the number of children and young people contacting Childline with suicidal feelings is on the rise.
“Teenagers today face a huge range of pressures: problems at school, body image worries, bullying on and offline, around-the-clock social media, and uncertainty about the future after school, are all piling on the stress.
“The government has committed an extra £1.4bn towards children and young people’s mental health services, but it’s crucial that this money is protected and spent where it is needed most.
“If your child is consistently anxious, unhappy, angry, or withdrawn, take it seriously. Let them know you’re concerned about them and are there if they need you.
“Try to talk to them openly, without judging them or rushing to telling them what to do – and if they don’t want to talk, try contacting them through text or email.
“Above all, seek help if you need it.”
The NSPCC is launching a campaign called ‘It’s Time’, which calls on the Government to invest in services – such as easily accessible professional care - to ensure all abused children receive the right support to prevent them developing mental health conditions.
The charity states it is well documented that abuse can trigger serious mental health issues and the “chronic shortage of support” is forcing many children to wait until they reach crisis point when they feel the only place they can turn to is Childline.
Giving advice to parents, a NSPCC spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “We understand that parents may be worried about their children but while thinking about suicide may be relatively common, very few young people will actually attempt to take their own lives.
1. Talk to your GP: If your child has been self-harming the doctor will be able to treat injuries and give medical advice. They could also refer your child for specialist help if they need it.
2. Talk to the school: Speak to the person in charge of child protection for the school, or a teacher your child is particularly close to. The school should be able to provide a named member of staff (counsellor, a mentor) who your child can go to if they’re struggling.
3. Tell your child about Childline: It’s a safe space for them to talk about their feelings if they aren’t ready to talk to you or need extra support www.childline.org.uk
For more information and support:
The NSPCC supports parents and families in caring for their children. For more information, visit their website.
YoungMinds has a parents helpline for mums and dads seeking help for their children. Call 0808 802 5544.