Thousands of young people are turning to Childline for help with feelings of isolation as they struggle with the pressures of growing up in today’s society.
The latest figures reveal last year the NSPCC-service delivered 4,063 counselling sessions – the equivalent to 11 a day – to children and teenagers suffering from loneliness.
World is becoming an increasingly complex place to grow up in
Volunteers at the local North West Childline base undertook 404 sessions where children told them they felt lonely. This is the first year Childline has recorded loneliness as an issue, with children as young as six seeking help for the problem more commonly associated with the older generation.
Childline counsellors are consistently hearing from children and teenagers that they feel like they are invisible, misunderstood and those closest to them are struggling to understand their feelings.
Other factors include the growth of social media leading some users to make unrealistic comparisons about their life that leave them feeling ugly and unpopular, struggling to fit into new surroundings after moving house or school and losing someone close to them after a death or broken relationship.
As a result of their low mood young people would often spend a lot of time in their bedrooms or online, which aggravated their loneliness. In the worst cases some had become so desperate they self-harmed to cope with their negative feelings, or even contemplated ending their own life.
Young people also told counsellors they didn’t want to talk to their parents about their issues as they were worried what they would think of them.
In addition, the NSPCC found 73 per cent of counselling sessions about loneliness were with girls, making them five times more likely to contact Childline for help about the issue than boys.
One 15-year-old girl who contacted Childline said: “I’ve thought about ending my life because I think it’s pointless me being here. I don’t feel like anyone cares about me and I’m lonely all the time.
“I’ve tried to talk to people about how stressed and anxious I feel, but they’re not bothered. It’s like I’m worthless. Whenever I compare myself to other people, it makes me realise how pathetic I am. I wish I was different.”
Over the last couple of years counsellors have noticed more and more young people talking to them about their loneliness, which has prompted the helpline service to specifically record the issue.
Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the NSPCC, said: “There is no single reason why so many young people are suffering from loneliness and as a result there is no simple fix to the problem. What is clear is that the world is becoming an increasingly complex place to grow up in with teenagers facing daily pressures to achieve what society defines as a successful life – grades, relationships, physical appearance.”
How do parents spot that their child is struggling to cope?
The NSPCC has also published advice for parents and carers who struggle to get their children to open up to them:
• Start a conversation when no-one will interrupt, perhaps a bike ride or car journey
• Try not to overreact when your child tells you something alarming it may stop them from confiding in you again
• If your child isn’t ready to talk straight away try again in a few days time
• Listening is important and shows your child you value what they’re telling you
If an adult is concerned a child is suffering from loneliness they should try and talk to them, and listen carefully to their concerns and worries.
If they don’t feel comfortable talking to you let them know they can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk