Social media, bullying and busy parents are contributing to children seeking more mental health support, charity warns

NSPCC say more children are asking for mental health support.

NSPCC say more children are asking for mental health support. - Credit: Archant

Mental health issues, bullying and social media are all contributing to a growing number of young people struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness, a charity warns.

The latest figures from Childline reveal the NSPCC-supported service delivered 4,636 counselling sessions for loneliness in the last year, a 14 per cent rise on the previous year.

Teenagers accounted for most of these, with the youngest person being 10 years old.

Almudena Lara, NSPCC head of policy, said: “Although we might not think of loneliness as something that affects young people, children are increasingly seeking support about feeling alone and isolated.

“This year the Prime Minster announced a strategy on tackling loneliness and social isolation, and the NSPCC would urge those working on this taskforce to take children and how they are now engaging with the world fully into account.”

Childline founder, Dame Esther Rantzen, added: “Loneliness needs to be taken seriously because it is potentially damaging to children’s physical and mental health. The crucial question is what is causing this rise among the young?

“Are we all too busy to make space and time for our children? Is it that we have lost the habit of eating together?

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“Or is it the illusion created by social networks that everyone else is liked, popular and enjoying a far more exciting life so they feel lonelier than ever?

“Whatever the reason it’s crucial that young people know they can always contact Childline to speak to someone who will listen and care about them.”

Girls received almost eight out of ten of the counselling sessions, with some pointing to the harmful effects of social media use and how comparing themselves to others online or watching people they thought were friends socialise without them made them feel increasingly isolated.

The NSPCC has launched an ‘Are you there?’ campaign which calls on Government to provide funding to Childline so it can help more young people struggling with mental health issues.

• The NSPCC has the following advice for parents who struggle to get their children to open up to them:

• Start conversations at a time when you won’t be interrupted such as on a walk or car ride.

• Try not to overreact if your child tells you something that alarms and upsets you as it may put them off talking to you.

• If your child isn’t ready to talk make sure you try again in a few days.

• Make sure you take in what your child is telling you – it shows you value their feelings and opinions.

• If you still struggle to get your child to open up make sure they know they can contact Childline for free and confidential support anytime on 0800 1111, or by downloading the ‘For Me’ app from the app store.