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Coronavirus: Big spike in calls to Childline amid pandemic

Coronavirus: Big spike in calls to Childline amid pandemic

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 6:29am 27th March 2020. (Updated at 8:12am 27th March 2020)

Calls to Childline have increased as schools across Cornwall and the south west close amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The NSPCC says the headlines and disruption means youngsters are struggling to cope with anxiety.

The charity now says it is experiencing 'unprecedented' demand.

Over 900 counselling sessions about coronavirus have been carried out with children so far. Two thirds of those were last week alone, as schools closed and parents started working from home.

Support for children worried about Covid-19 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 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." 

upset child

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."

girl walking

Most of the young people Childline has been supporting on the impact of coronavirus are 12-15-year-old girls. 

“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.”

Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder of Childline

How to get help:

Advice for children about Coronavirus

Advice for parents for talking to a child worried Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Young people can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or via 1-2-1 chat on www.childline.org.uk

Childline also has a huge online community where children can get support from their peers on message-boards and use expert resources to help them through any issue they are concerned about.

If adults are worried about children they can get advice from NSPCC practitioners on 0808 800 5000 or help@nspcc.org.uk

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