Belfast Telegraph

Counselling for teen anxiety at record high

By Adrian Rutherford

Counselling sessions for anxiety have reached record levels in Northern Ireland, a charity has reported.

A total of 467 young people from here contacted Childline over the past two years as they battled anxiety, with some even suffering panic attacks as they struggled to get help.

In the 12 months to April the NSPCC service delivered 258 such sessions with children - up from 209 in 2015/16.

But the true figure is likely to be higher with hundreds not telling the service where they were calling from.

Across the UK, Childline counsellors carried out 13,746 counselling sessions - the equivalent of 38 a day - with anxious young people.

In over 3,000 of these, callers talked about having panic attacks, which made them feel trapped and worried.

However, some young people have told Childline they did not fit the criteria for Children and Mental Health Support (CAMHS), or have been left on their waiting list for months.

A 17-year-old girl said: "I suffer with anxiety and panic attacks and find it difficult to leave the house.

"I was referred to CAMHS but I was on a waiting list for eight months.

"During that time my anxiety got worse, so I never went because I was too scared.

"Every day feels impossible and so difficult and I know I need help but the thought of having to sit there and talk openly, having to revisit old memories and thoughts with a stranger terrifies me."

The youngsters also said they experienced challenges at home in getting help, with some having their anxiety dismissed by parents as an overreaction or a passing phase.

In some counselling sessions they are able to identify triggers for their anxiety, such as starting a new school, moving house or upcoming exams.

One 16-year-old girl told counsellors: "Recently I've been feeling anxious and the smallest things make me feel scared.

"I don't understand because nothing has happened to trigger it.

"I've just been feeling worse and worse lately. It's got to the point where I've felt so overwhelmed that I just want to run away from it all."

Neil Anderson, head of the NSPCC in Northern Ireland, said: "Anxiety is a growing problem in young people's lives today, and it is not going away.

"We all need to help children and teenagers find ways to cope with their anxious feelings and not dismiss them as an overreaction."

Dame Esther Rantzen, founder and president of Childline, added: "It's only natural for children and young people to feel worried sometimes, but when they are plagued by constant fears which result in panic attacks and make them too anxious to leave their homes then they need urgent support."

Belfast Telegraph

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