The NSPCC run service, Childline, revealed that counselling sessions about loneliness peaked over the festive period last year, with the service delivering a record number of nearly 600 in December alone.
From April 2020 to March 2021 there were 6,039 counselling sessions about loneliness, marking an all-time high for a single year. This is an increase of nearly half (49%) over the past four years.
The NSPCC has long highlighted that many children and young people struggle with loneliness and isolation. The data released today suggests that these feelings were exacerbated during the pandemic, as schools were closed, and they were forced to stay at home. Children shared with Childline’s counsellors that these experiences were particularly acute over the festive period, as households were unable to mix.
The charity can also reveal that loneliness is particularly affecting younger children. In 2020/21, there was a 47 percent increase in counselling sessions with children aged 11 and under when compared to the year before.
Young people who contacted Childline about loneliness also talked about being unhappy, feeling unloved and generally low. Some described it as a dark experience that was overwhelming. As well as loneliness, the top reasons children turn to the service for support with their mental health include anxiety and stress, low mood, and depression.
Childline is staffed by 1,200 Childline volunteer counsellors and last month celebrated its 35th birthday.
In response to concerns about children this Christmas, the NSPCC has launched its ‘Here for Children’ TV Christmas Appeal. The advert, which will go out across TV channels including Sky News, More4 and Film4 today, sees Childline counsellors taking calls at Christmas from children struggling with loneliness and isolation, suicidal thoughts and feelings and physical abuse.
A voiceover says ‘This Christmas, thousands of children will be struggling to
cope. It’s not OK. You can help us be here for children. Search NSPCC to give £20 now.’
Christmas can be a very challenging time for children who suffer from abuse, neglect and are struggling with their mental health. Cut off from school and other support, it is vital they have somewhere to turn. The NSPCC is reaching out to the public to support its Here for Children Appeal and make a donation, so Childline counsellors can answer a child’s call for help this Christmas.