More children calling helpline over loneliness

3 July 2018, 08:20 | Updated: 3 July 2018, 08:25

A child calling Childline

he number of children who called a helpline because they were experiencing feelings of loneliness has risen 37% in the past year, new figures show.

Childline delivered counselling sessions to 272 children in Scotland who felt lonely in 2017/18, up from 199 the previous year.

The charity said that mental health issues, bullying and social media are all contributing towards a growing number of young people struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Across the UK, the NSPCC-supported service delivered 4,636 counselling sessions to children for loneliness in 2017/18 - a 14% rise on the previous year.

Teenagers accounted for most of the sessions, with the youngest person being just 10.

The NSPCC's Are you there? campaign is calling on the UK Government to provide funding to Childline so it can help more children and teenagers struggling with mental health issues.

Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen said: "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?

"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."

Two of Childline's 12 UK bases are in Scotland and both of them carried out more counselling sessions with young people experiencing loneliness in the last year.

Childline base answered 817 calls from children across the UK who were feeling lonely, up from 693 the previous year, while the Aberdeen base carried out 202 counselling sessions with UK children, up from 164.

Almost eight in ten of the calls were from girls, some of whom highlighted the harmful effects of social media use.

They said that comparing themselves to others online or watching people they thought were friends socialise without them made them feel increasingly isolated.