A record number of children are contacting Childline about suicide, the NSPCC has warned.
In 2016/17, Childline delivered 22,456 counselling sessions about suicide. This increased from 19,481 sessions in 2015/16, and 17,782 sessions in 2014/15.
The helpline carried out an average of 62 counselling sessions a day on the issue last year, with children as young as 10 expressing suicidal thoughts.
Suicide is the third most common reason for girls to contact Childline, and the fifth most common for boys. Mental health issues, family relationships, and self-harm were the top three additional concerns mentioned during suicide counselling sessions.
One 14-year-old girl told a counsellor: “I want to end it tonight. I’ve written a suicide note and have everything ready.”
NSPCC CEO Peter Wanless said: “We must face the painful reality that many young people feel so overwhelmed by their problems they have considered taking their own, precious lives. We have never seen figures like these before and they are a blunt wake up call.”
Childline founder and president Esther Rantzen said: “Today’s tragic statistics prove that Childline is more crucial than ever and, for some, literally a lifeline.
“When Childline launched over 30 years ago, children usually felt suicidal because they were being hurt by someone. Now young people tell us they are overwhelmed by mental health issues taking them to the brink of suicide.
“We must discover why so many of our young people feel so isolated.”
Young people were most likely to be counselled about suicidal thoughts and feelings on Monday evenings, and the majority of children confided to counsellors online, via the charity’s 1-2-1 chat service, or by email.
A 13-year-old boy told a counsellor: “I came out to one of my friends recently, I thought I could trust him but he told other people at school. Now everybody knows and I wasn’t ready for that.
“I’m being bullied constantly and I don’t know how to make it stop. I would tell a teacher but I don’t want to have to talk about my sexuality with school. It’s all got so overwhelming before that I’ve thought about just ending it all.”
Wanless said: “Young people must know life is worth living and they can lead a life rich in possibilities and happiness.
“When they are suffering from problems, it’s vital they get the right help swiftly before these issues snowball into suicidal feelings or even attempts to end their lives. I would urge any child who is feeling this way to take that first step and talk to Childline; our counsellors are always there for them.”
In September 2016, NSPCC revealed the helpline received an equivalent of 53 counselling sessions a day about suicide.
What to do if you’re worried your child is suicidal:
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.”
The spokesperson shared three pieces of advice for parents:
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.
Heather Dickinson, manager of PAPYRUS helpline - HOPELineUK - that deals with children experiencing suicidal thoughts, previously told HuffPost UK that parents should ask their children about sensitive topics directly rather than skirting around and avoiding these topics.
“Ask about suicide directly,” she said. “Asking directly will give the young person a clear message that it’s okay to talk about it, and that you are a safe person to talk to.
“You will not make your child feel worse, but you will give her the chance to get help and be listened to.”
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.
PAPYRUS: Children and parents can contact HOPELineUK for advice and support. It is confidential. Call 0800 0684141, text 07786209697 or email email@example.com.