Childline has experienced an unprecedented demand for its services as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic starts to affect children’s lives.
There have been over 900 counselling sessions with children and young people about Coronavirus so far, nearly two-thirds of which (597) took place last week (16-22 March), as parents started working from home and school closures were announced.
Support for children worried about Coronavirus hit a peak on Wednesday 18 March – the day the Prime Minister confirmed UK schools would shut – with Childline delivering 121 counselling sessions on the issue in just one day.
Over half of young people who spoke to Childline last week about Coronavirus were counselled for their mental and emotional health as they struggled to cope with issues like isolation, arguments at home and the removal of professional support from schools and the NHS.
One teenage girl told a counsellor:
“I feel really anxious, upset and lonely. The news has made my mental health worse but my CAMHS appointment has been cancelled and school has closed. I’m stuck at home having a horrible time because my sisters are bullying me because I’m autistic.”
Government has given Childline staff and volunteers key worker status as they battle to keep the vital service running and continue to support children through this public health emergency.
While the service has reduced slightly since some volunteer counsellors have been told to self-isolate, it continues to be a lifeline for some of the most vulnerable children.
Last week Childline delivered over 50 counselling sessions with children who were having suicidal thoughts, exacerbated by Coronavirus as they felt trapped and isolated.
Other issues raised have included school work and family relationships, as children sense the seriousness of the situation through their parent’s reactions.
A girl said to Childline:
“My mum is being very distant with me and I am usually very close to her, it’s really upsetting me. My mum and I have a good relationship but she’s really obsessed with the news and she won’t hug me or get very close to me. It scares me to think this will go on for months. She constantly talks about the Coronavirus and my anxiety is getting worse.”
Most of the young people Childline has been supporting on the impact of Coronavirus are 12-15-year-old girls.
Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder of Childline, said: “Our dedicated volunteers are on the frontline supporting children through this public health emergency, and we couldn’t do it without them.
“Sometimes young people find it difficult to share their anxieties with their parents, for fear of worrying them further. So, it is important that families talk about their feelings, together. We are hearing from children who have been cut off from vital support networks such as school, and friends, and that has increased their feelings of loneliness and vulnerability. They may have pre-existing mental health issues which are exacerbated by the current crisis.
“Childline needs your help to let children and young people know that we are still here for them, and if they need someone to turn to, they can contact Childline via our website or on the phone.”
Peter Wanless, CEO of NSPCC, said: “The 24/7 news cycle about Coronavirus is causing huge worry and anxiety in young people – particularly those who are already coping with many other issues in their lives.
“Childline provides an essential service to vulnerable children, some of whom may be in a life-threatening situation, which is why our staff and volunteers are working tirelessly to keep Childline running.
“While we are all facing events unprecedented in modern timekeeping children safe and providing them with a space to talk about their concerns is our number one priority.”