Childline reports big rise in calls from Northern Ireland children
Social media, mental health issues and bullying are all contributing towards a growing number of young people in Northern Ireland struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness, a charity has said.
The latest figures from Childline reveal the NSPCC-supported service delivered 4,636 counselling sessions for loneliness in 2017/18 - a 14% rise on the previous year.
Of that total, 105 counselling sessions here were carried out with children from Northern Ireland, up from 71 in the previous year.
Across the UK, girls received almost 80% of sessions, with some pointing to the harmful effect of social media. Among the reasons cited for making them feel increasingly isolated was watching people they thought were friends socialise without them.
The NSPCC's 'Are You There' campaign is calling on the UK Government to provide funding to Childline so it can help more children and teenagers struggling with mental health issues.
One teenage boy told Childline: "Recently I've been feeling really isolated and alone. I see all my friends having a good time on social media and it gets me down, I feel like no one cares enough to invite me.
"My mood is getting worse and now I'm just upset all the time and can't stop crying. It's affecting my school work and my mood swings are uncontrollable, it's like everything is falling apart. I just don't want to feel alone anymore."
NSPCC Northern Ireland policy and public affairs manager Colin Reid said: "These Childline figures show that although we might not think of loneliness as something that affects young people. But children are increasingly seeking support about feeling alone and isolated."
Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen said: "Loneliness needs to be taken seriously because it is potentially damaging to children's physical and mental health. The crucial question is what is causing this rise among the young?
"Whatever the reason it's crucial that young people know they can always contact Childline to speak to someone who will listen and care about them."
Childline can be contacted for on 0800 1111, at www.childline.org.uk or by downloading the 'For Me' app.