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256 Northern Ireland children counselled for loneliness

By Adrian Rutherford

More than 250 counselling sessions were held in Northern Ireland in the last year for children who are lonely.

Across the UK, more than 4,000 young people were counselled for loneliness in 2016/17. Some were aged just six.

The NSPCC said children were reaching out to Childline for help with feelings of isolation as they struggle with the pressures of growing up in today's society.

Latest figures show that in the last 12 months it delivered 4,063 counselling sessions - equivalent to 11 a day - to children and teenagers across the UK.

In Northern Ireland, Childline's two bases in Belfast and Foyle carried out 256 sessions.

Neil Anderson, who heads the NSPCC here, said it was a multi-faceted problem. "There is no single reason for this number of young people suffering from loneliness and as result there is no simple fix to the problem," he said.

"What is clear is that the world is becoming an increasingly complex place to grow up in with children and teenagers facing daily pressures to achieve what society defines as a successful life - grades, relationships, physical appearance.

"It is therefore vital that children and teenagers have people around them, in particular parents, who they can really open up to about how they are feeling."

This is the first year Childline has recorded loneliness as an issue, with children aged as young as six seeking help for the problem more commonly associated with the older generation.

Many young people said they feel invisible and misunderstood. Other factors include the growth of social media.

The NSPCC found 73% of counselling sessions about loneliness were with girls.

One 15-year-old girl who came forward 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."

  • Childline can be contacted for free, confidential support and advice 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or online at www.childline.org.uk

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