Since lockdown measures were first introduced Childline has delivered more than 1,500 counselling sessions about mental and emotional health, with children from Wales reaching out for help with issues including loneliness and low self-esteem.
The NSPCC, which runs Childline, has revealed how it’s counselled 17% more children in Wales about their mental health, from an average of 191 per month before the first national lockdown measures were introduced to an average of 224 sessions per month since the end of March.
Childline has counselled 1,566 children and young people in Wales since April with the service hearing from children who, after being cut off from important support networks, shared that they were feeling isolated, anxious and insecure.
Now with Wales emerging from “firebreak” restrictions, Childline is launching a new campaign called Nobody is Normal. It aims to help children understand that lacking confidence, feeling not good enough or that you don’t fit in, is a shared experience. Childline, which has volunteer counsellors based in Prestatyn and Cardiff answering contacts from children across the UK and Channel Islands, is encouraging them not to suffer in silence.
Developed with young people, the campaign features a bold new animation of a young boy who is struggling with anxiety while desperately trying to appear ‘normal’. Backed by Radiohead’s hit song Creep, it reminds young people that no matter how isolated they feel, they are not alone and Childline is here.
Across the UK and Channel Islands, Childline has delivered higher monthly numbers of counselling sessions about a range of mental health-related issues since March, including low self-esteem, loneliness and worries about the world. Mental health remains the top reason young people get in touch with Childline, making up over a third of all counselling sessions delivered to children.
Counsellors have heard that some children have developed unhealthy eating behaviours for the first time such as binge eating and bulimia nervosa, and those with existing eating disorders have experienced worsened symptoms, or a relapse.
A young girl told Childline:
“I don’t know if it’s just me being sad because of lockdown, but I’ve been feeling really disgusting in my own body lately. All my friends have clear and beautiful skin with even tones, but mine is spotty and red and covered in freckles. I just feel like I’m always the odd one out.”
The number of contacts from children in Wales about body image has increased since the end of March.
Throughout the pandemic, Childline counsellors have heard from children who have shared that the crisis has affected their mental and emotional health.
Childline Founder, Dame Esther Rantzen said:
“The pandemic has cut children off from the reassurance many of them need. When young people are facing mental health issues such as anxiety or depression or are struggling with eating disorders or self-harm, they often hide it from their parents and families. A lockdown intensifies stress in all our lives, and the Childline team know from past experience that it has made many children feel especially isolated.
“The Nobody is Normal campaign encourages any children feeling unable to discuss their anxiety and distress to reach out to Childline for support. Many young people are under immense pressure from social media to look and behave like everyone else, but the campaign recognises that we are all individuals, special and unique. If these tough times have caused children to feel an extra level of anxiety, we want them to feel confident to express their fears and share their worries, and know that Childline is still here for them.”
The service has also heard that lockdown gave some children within the LGBTQ+ community the confidence to come out to their friends and family, whilst others expressed fears about coming out and some young people were left unable to cope after receiving a negative response.
Anyone with any concerns about the welfare of a child can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or visit nspcc.org.uk for advice.
Children can call Childline on 0800 11 11 from 7.30am to midnight from Monday to Friday or 9am to midnight on weekends. Or they can get in touch via www.childline.org.uk.