Childline receives call about suicide every 30 minutes

Record numbers of children who feel desperate are contacting the confidential counselling service, new figures reveal
Childline counselling

Childline carried out an average of 53 suicide counselling sessions a day last year, as the service dealt with record numbers of calls from children in crisis.

The 24-hour phone and email counselling service, run by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), received 19,481 contacts in 2015 – more than double the number five years ago.

Counsellors saw an 87% increase in young people who said they had struggled to gain professional help because of lengthy waiting lists, lack of information or refusal of help.

Suicidal thoughts

Turbulent home life, abuse, school pressures and mental health conditions were all major triggers for suicidal thoughts. Children as young as ten spoke to counsellors about how desperate they were feeling.

One 15-year-old girl said: ‘I am so stressed out with schoolwork and I have 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 am scared it’s going to go too deep one day.’

Feeling desperate

A 13-year-old told counsellors: ‘I am a nobody, I am 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 have told my mum about these things, but she told me to ignore it and then told everyone in my family – I think everyone would be better off if I wasn’t here.’

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: ‘We have to understand why so many children are reaching such desperate emotional states that they feel they have no option but to end their lives.

‘It is up to all of us to help them feel that life is worth living.’

Saving lives

Childline president Esther Rantzen said: ‘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.

‘I would urge any young person who feels this way to contact us. It really does make a difference to speak to someone who cares about you, and wants to listen.’

Dame Esther added that it was crucial to ask why children felt so lonely and desperate that they had to contact Childline for support.

‘The good news is that when they do, we know we are able to save lives, and protect children from acute pain.’

The NSPCC’s It’s Time campaign is demanding government 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.