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Rising stress levels have taken a toll on the mental and emotional health of young people since the first coronavirus lockdown was imposed in March, children’s charity the NSPCC has warned.
Calls to the charity’s ChildLine service reached nearly 43,000 between March and October, with mental health worries making up more than a third of all its counselling sessions, new figures showed.
The NSPCC said its counsellors had heard from children who were feeling isolated, anxious and insecure after being cut off from their usual social support networks.
Some children had developed eating disorders such as binge eating and bulimia for the first time, while others with existing eating disorders had reported worse symptoms or had relapsed, the charity found.
The figures reveal that counselling sessions for eating and body image disorders rose by 32% from 335 per month before the March lockdown to 443 afterwards.
More young people also sought help on sexual and gender identity issues, with calls rising 16% from 374 a month before lockdown to 434 after the stay-at-home restrictions were brought in.
The charity released the figures before the launch of a campaign that aims to help children cope with the mental and emotional difficulties they may experience during the latest lockdown. The campaign, Nobody is Normal, hopes to reassure children that lacking confidence, not feeling good enough, or not fitting in are common experiences.
Among the children who contacted ChildLine was a 14-year-old who suspected they were transgender but had no one to talk to about their feelings. “I have always been a tomboy and never fitted in with the girls. I was fine with it for a while, but recently I have become very uncomfortable with my gender and I’m really struggling. I feel stuck, I wish someone can help me,” they told the helpline.
Another child called for help because she felt “disgusting” in her own body. “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,” she told a ChildLine counsellor.
Dame Esther Rantzen, who founded the helpline, said the pandemic had 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,” she said.
“The Nobody Is Normal campaign encourages any children feeling unable to discuss their anxiety and distress to reach out to ChildLine for support,” she added. “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.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: NSPCC warns of lockdown’s toll on children’s mental health | Society