Last year (2014/15), we undertook almost 300,000 counselling sessions with children and young people. The good news is that many are now finding the courage to contact us - a huge step that can help transform their lives.
The bad news is that every six minutes a ChildLine counsellor takes a call from a child who is feeling lonely, isolated and depressed. Last year there were 85,000 counselling sessions for young people with a mental health-related concern including suicidal thoughts and low self-esteem.
The emerging issues which children are now facing day to day do not go away when they are at home or school. With the ever expanding world of social media many children are finding it increasingly difficult to find a safe haven.
We know that the pressure to do well in school is also a massive issue. Last year we held nearly 14,000 counselling sessions with children concerned about education problems and worryingly we are seeing an increase in children aged 11 and under being affected by this.
This is why we must foster a culture where our society enables young people to have the brightest future possible by achieving academic success in an environment that considers their emotional and mental wellbeing.
One teenage boy who spoke to a ChildLine counsellor said: “I am about to take my GCSEs and I am under so much pressure as my parents are expecting me to do really well. I am going to revision classes and trying really hard but I feel like it is not good enough for them. My parents don't allow me to do anything else apart from revision and if I try and talk to them it always ends up in an argument.”
Another said: “This time last year I couldn’t stop crying whilst I was speaking to a counsellor and I was so grateful to have someone that would listen.”
The pressure to do well is being felt by an increasing number of young people across the country who tell us that stresses about exams are triggering anxiety attacks, depression, tearfulness, and even eating disorders.
What is evident, is that these issues are on the rise, inside and outside the classroom, and we need to act now if we are to help these young people. We need to ensure we listen to them and recognise that we all have an important role to play in child protection.
Encouragingly we know that parents, carers and professionals, particularly teachers, want to help children and that they value guidance on providing advice to them.
One of the most important things you can do, whether you are a parent, teacher or a family friend is be aware of young people showing signs that they are in need – you can find out more about how to spot these signs on the NSPCC website.
We also know through talking to young people that often they are just waiting for someone to ask them how they are – a short conversation which can be a lifeline for someone who is struggling to cope.
If you’re an adult and you need help or advice please call the free NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000, email firstname.lastname@example.org or text us on 88858. You can remain anonymous if you wish. You can also find out more about how to spot the signs that a young person is in need on the NSPCC website
If we all work together to reach out to young people and to let them know that they are not alone we can help give them a brighter future. Every childhood is worth fighting for.
By John Cameron, NSPCC Head of Helplines