To mark their 30th anniversary, Childline has compared the main issues raised by children phoning the helpline. It suggests that in 1986 children’s main concerns were sexual abuse, family problems and physical abuse. Whereas by 2015, the main issues were bullying, self-harm, low self-esteem and unhappiness with children also reporting worries about their online image and struggling to find happiness in their body shape.
According to information released by the charity, 35,244 sessions run by ChildLine in 2014/15 were related to low self-esteem and unhappiness, a 9% rise on the previous year. There has equally been a step change in the way young people contact Childline with fewer than one in three counselling sessions via telephone last year while 71% involved email or online chat.
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NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: "It is clear from the hundreds of thousands of calls ChildLine receives that we have a nation of deeply unhappy children. The pressure to keep up with friends and have the perfect life online is adding to the sadness that many young people feel on a daily basis.
"The worries that young people face and the way they talk to us have dramatically changed since ChildLine was launched, and we will change to make sure that no matter what, young people will have a place to turn to whenever they need it."
The increasing breadth of concerns and ways to contact the service has also led to a significant rise in the overall number of sessions the helpline runs each year, going from 23,530 in 1986/87 to 286,812 in 2014/15.
Founder Dame Esther Rantzen says "it is a national tragedy that British children are so unhappy".
“I remember in 1986 how shocked we were to discover that so many children were suffering terrible abuse in their own homes," she added. "But today I am shocked by the acute unhappiness and loneliness that afflicts so many young people which means that, for many, the only place they can find comfort and protection is from our helpline."
Other changes highlighted in Childline's annual report included:
- Sexual abuse (including online sexual abuse) saw an increase of 8% from 2013-14.
- Domestic/partner abuse saw an increase of 4% from 2013-14.
- A 124% increase in the number of counselling sessions where young people talked about problems accessing services.
- Online counselling continued to grow, rising from 68% in 2013-14, to 71% in 2014-15.
To read the report in full visit www.nspcc.org.uk/globalassets/documents/annual-reports/childline-annual-review-always-there-2014-2015.pdf