Rising number of Northern Ireland children helped by Childline for suicidal thoughts and feelings

 NSPCC launches Kids In Real Life (#KIDS_IRL) to save young lives, in real life

  • Hard-hitting campaign backed by Childline founder Esther Rantzen

A RISING number of Northern Ireland children and young people are receiving help from its Childline service as they struggle with suicidal thoughts and feelings.

In 2018/19, Childline delivered 461 counselling sessions to children from Northern Ireland – an increase of 32% from 349 in 2015/16.

Across its UK bases, in 2018/19 Childline delivered 24,447 counselling sessions to young people plagued by a sense of despair, a three-year increase of a quarter (25%).

Childline’s base in Belfast delivered 2,765 of those counselling sessions to children across the UK in 2018/19, while the service’s base in Foyle delivered 310.

Of the UK-wide total, most of those reaching out were teenagers, but there has also been a sharp rise in under 11s receiving help (87% since 2015/16).

Young people contacting Childline with suicidal thoughts and feelings cited specific concerns about mental health, self-harm, family relationships and problems at school and college. Girls were more likely to talk about these feelings, with five times as many receiving counselling sessions than boys.

In response, the NSPCC has this week launched a nationwide campaign – KIDS In Real Life – urging the public to help them save a child’s life, in real life.

#KIDS_IRL is highlighting that with so much of childhood today happening online, there are more ways than ever for children to hide how they really feel.

But behind the filters, feed and emojis, many of them are suffering. Some are even thinking about taking their own life.

The NSPCC is calling on people to show their support through a ‘Pledge to Protect’ and make a donation to fund vital services like Childline which are there for children and teenagers when they have nowhere else to turn.

#KIDS_IRL is being brought to life by a series of hard-hitting films and adverts to raise awareness of the struggles many children and teenagers face across the country.

The stories of children and young people featured throughout the campaign are based on real life experiences of young people who have contacted the NSPCC. Hollie suffered from chronic anxiety as a teenager which led her to try and take her own life. She says she was saved by Childline:

“Following a suicide attempt I contacted Childline and spoke to a counsellor about how I was feeling. It was that conversation that stopped me from trying to take my life again when I got off the phone.

“Over the next couple of years, I stopped talking, walking, eating and taking care of myself. There were also more stays in hospital. Yet despite not talking to anyone, I would often call Childline and chat to a counsellor when I was feeling low. The service was my lifeline during my darkest hours.”

Since launching its online chat service, the demand for support and advice from Childline has continued to rise.

Esther Rantzen, Founder and President of Childline, said:

When we launched Childline in 1986, the majority of calls were from young people describing pain caused by someone else, this could include abuse, bullying or neglect. But over the last ten years we have seen a rise in the number of children describing their feelings of such intense unhappiness that they tell Childline they want to end their own lives. It is deeply disturbing that we have reached a point where, on average, 67 children a day in the UK are receiving help for suicidal thoughts and feelings.

“This new campaign highlights that many of these profoundly unhappy young people hide their feelings to those around them online, bottling up their suicidal thoughts which may become overwhelming. Worryingly we don’t have the resources to be there for every child who needs us, which is why it is so important the public get behind #KIDS_IRL and supports the NSPCC in their mission to be there for all the young people who reach out in their darkest hour.”

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