The statistics, released at the start of Children’s Mental Health Week, highlight there was an average of one call every 11 minutes - an 8% increase over the past four years.
More than a third of counselling sessions about serious mental health concerns were with 12- to 15-year-olds. Childline delivered 18,690 counselling sessions around suicidal feelings, self-harm and depressive disorders to this age group.
“It’s striking how many more children seem to be suffering serious mental health problems today than when we launched Childline 30 years ago,” said Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen.
“So many desperately unhappy children seem to be suffering suicidal thoughts, self-harming, becoming anxious and depressed, with many of them turning to Childline because no other support is available.”
One 16-year-old girl told Childline: “I want to know what’s wrong with me. I have been seeing a counsellor about my mental health issues but they just told me to eat and sleep better and forget about the past which didn’t help me at all.
“I wish I could speak to someone who actually cared about me and I felt comfortable talking to.”
Another young person said: “I’m struggling to cope with bipolar. One minute, I feel so low, like I’m trapped, and all I want to do is disappear. Then suddenly, I feel the complete opposite, and I’m really happy and I start thinking about everything in a really positive light.
“I feel like I push away everyone that tries to help, I tell them I hate them and blame them for everything. I just feel like I’ve turned into a monster.”
Commenting on the figures, Peter Wanless CEO of the NSPCC, said: “It’s deeply concerning that so many young people are contacting Childline with a serious mental health problem, with some of this suffering being a direct result of the individual having previously experienced abuse and neglect.
“To ensure the next generation aren’t left to deal with a mental health epidemic there has to be a much more comprehensive network of professional support and treatment in place that is easily accessible for young people who are desperate for help to get their lives back on track.”
Dame Rantzen added: “We know CAMHS are terribly overstretched, meaning that young people aren’t able to access the professional help they need. We believe there needs to be far more emphasis on providing help for these children as they struggle to deal with what are very serious illnesses.”
The NSPCC advised the first step to helping a child address a serious mental health problem is to talk to them in a safe and secure environment about exactly how they’re feeling.
“If they are reluctant to open up you can direct them to Childline, which is available around the clock,” they advised parents.
“If a parent concludes that the problem requires medical support you should take your child to the family GP who will decide if and what professional treatment is required.”
The release of the figures comes as the NSPCC marks the one year anniversary of the ‘It’s Time’ campaign, which has seen the charity pushing the government to ensure that young victims of abuse and neglect are given access to the right mental health support in a timely manner to aid their recovery.
Children and young people who wish to talk to Childline can do so in confidence online, on the phone, anytime at www.childline.org.uk or 0800 1111.