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Coronavirus: Childline inundated with calls from young people worried about pandemic

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Childline has experienced unprecedented demand for its services as more and more young people become increasingly distressed about coronavirus.

Across the UK there have been over 900 counselling sessions with youths since the outbreak.

These were delivered by staff working at Childline's two Northern Ireland bases, in Belfast and Foyle, between January 21 and March 22.

Nearly two-thirds (597) took place last week as parents started working from home and closures were announced.

The demand for support services hit a peak on March 18, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that schools would be shutting down.

Childline delivered 121 counselling sessions on the issue in one day alone.

More than half of those who spoke to Childline last week about coronavirus were counselled for their mental and emotional health as they struggled to cope with issues including isolation, arguments at home and the removal of professional support from schools and the NHS.

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Belfast Childline service manager Mairead Monds

Belfast Childline service manager Mairead Monds

Belfast Childline service manager Mairead Monds

One teenage girl told a counsellor: "I feel really anxious, upset and lonely.

"The news has made my mental health worse, but my Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service appointment has been cancelled and school has closed.

"I'm stuck at home and having a horrible time because my sisters are bullying me because I'm autistic." Childline staff and volunteers are battling to keep the essential service running and continue to support children throughout the crisis.

While the service has reduced slightly because some volunteer counsellors have been told to self-isolate, it continues to be a lifeline for some of the most vulnerable children.

Last week Childline delivered more than 50 counselling sessions to children who were having suicidal thoughts, which were exacerbated by feelings of being trapped and isolated, themselves caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Other issues raised included school work and family relationships.

One girl told Childline: "My mum is being very distant with me and I am usually very close to her, so it's really upsetting me.

"My mum and I have a good relationship, but she's really obsessed with the news and she won't hug me or even get very close to me.

"It scares me to think this will go on for months.

"She constantly talks about the coronavirus and my anxiety is getting worse."

Most of the young people Childline has been supporting are 12 to 15-year-old girls.

Belfast Childline service manager Mairead Monds said: "The 24/7 news cycle about coronavirus is causing huge worry and anxiety in young people, particularly those who are already coping with many other issues in their lives."

Parentline NI has also received a high volume of calls over the past 10 days.

The organisation issued a reminder to parents that it offers free support and guidance.

The most common problems raised in the calls related to anxiety, separation, substance misuse, boundaries in general but particularly with teenagers and parental mental health.

It has also taken calls about suicidal teenagers.

Contact Childine on 0800 1111 or www.childline.org.uk. Contact Parentline for free on 0808 8020 400 or chat online at www.ci-ni.org.uk

Belfast Telegraph