Childline carried out more than 900 suicide counselling sessions involving children from Scotland last year as the helpline dealt with record levels of calls on the issue.
Across the UK, the round-the-clock service delivered record levels of counselling sessions on suicide between April 2015 and March 2016 with 19,481 contacts from young people who were plagued with thoughts of ending their own lives – an average of 53 sessions every day and more than double the number five years ago.
A total of 934 calls and online enquiries were received from children in Scotland – an average of almost 18 a week.
Girls were six times more likely to contact Childline about suicidal thoughts and feelings than boys and those at most risk were aged between 12 and 15.
Children tended to feel more desperate in the winter months with a third calling Childline counsellors at night, according to the service’s annual report ‘It Turned Out Someone Did Care’ published recently. Many of the calls dealt with by counsellors had to be referred to emergency services.
Turbulent home life, abuse, school pressures, and mental health conditions were all major triggers for suicidal thoughts, with children as young as ten telling the NSPCC’s service how desperate they were.
There was a significant rise in the number of young people who spoke about their mental health, with a third of counselling sessions concentrating on the issue. It is well documented that abuse can trigger serious mental health issues.
Many were singlehandedly dealing with problems as counsellors across the UK saw an 87 per cent increase in young people struggling to access professional help predominantly for mental health services, blaming lengthy waiting lists, lack of information or refusal of help.
The chronic shortage of support is forcing many children to wait until they reach crisis point when they feel the only place they can turn to is Childline.
The NSPCC’s It’s Time campaign is demanding governments across the UK invest in services – such as easily accessible professional care - to ensure all abused children receive the right support to prevent them developing mental health conditions.
Elaine Chalmers, service head for Childline in Scotland, said: “We have to understand why so many children are reaching such a desperate emotional state that they feel they have no option but to end their lives. As a society, we cannot be content that a generation of children feel so worthless, alone and cut off from support. It is up to all of us to help them feel that life is worth living.
“Children shouldering mental health problems often feel left in the shadows, their pain is not obviously visible and their injuries cannot be mended with bandages. We must listen to them, find out what is troubling them, and help them overcome their problems. Our It’s Time campaign calls on government to ensure all abused children are given the necessary support to help overcome their ordeals and these harrowing figures show just how urgently this is needed.”
Dame Esther Rantzen, president of Childline said: “It is deeply disturbing that in the past year nearly 20,000 children and young people contacted Childline because they felt so deeply unhappy that many of them wanted to take their own lives. I would urge any young person who feels this way to contact us. It really does make a difference to speak to someone who cares and wants to listen.”