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'Disturbing' rise in suicidal Northern Ireland children contacting Childline

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Worried: Esther Rantzen

Worried: Esther Rantzen

Worried: Esther Rantzen

More Northern Ireland children and young people are receiving help as they struggle with suicidal thoughts.

Figures from Childline reveal that 461 counselling sessions were delivered to local children in 2018/19.

This is an increase of 32% from 349 in 2015/16.

Childline's base in Belfast delivered 2,765 counselling sessions to children across the UK in 2018/19, while the service's base in Foyle delivered 310.

Across all its UK bases during the same period, the charity delivered 24,447 counselling sessions to young people plagued by a sense of despair, which is up 25% in three years.

Most sessions in the UK-wide total were for teenagers, but there was also a sharp rise in under-11s receiving help, which was up 87% on 2015/16.

Childline said young people contacting its services with suicidal thoughts and feelings had cited specific concerns about mental health, self-harm, family relationships and problems at school and college.

Girls were more likely to talk about these feelings, with five times as many receiving counselling sessions as boys.

In response, the NSPCC is today launching a nationwide campaign, KIDS In Real Life, urging the public to help them save a child's life.

KIDS_IRL highlights that with so much of childhood today happening online, there are more ways than ever for children to hide how they really feel.

But behind the filters, feeds and emojis, many of them are suffering.

Some are even thinking about taking their own life.

The NSPCC is calling on people to show their support through a 'Pledge to Protect' and make a donation to fund vital services such as Childline, which are there for children and teenagers when they feel they have nowhere else to turn.

KIDS_IRL is being brought to life by a series of hard-hitting films and advertisements to raise awareness of the struggles many children and teenagers face across the country.

The stories of children and young people featured throughout the campaign are based on the real-life experiences of young people who have contacted the NSPCC.

Since launching its online chat service, the demand for support and advice from Childline has continued to rise.

Esther Rantzen, founder and president of Childline, said: "When we launched Childline in 1986, the majority of calls were from young people describing pain caused by someone else.

"This could include abuse, bullying or neglect.

"However, over the last 10 years we have seen a rise in the number of children describing feelings of such intense unhappiness that they tell Childline they want to end their own lives.

"It is deeply disturbing that we have reached a point where, on average, 67 children a day in the UK are receiving help for suicidal thoughts and feelings.

"This new campaign highlights that many of these profoundly unhappy young people hide their feelings to those around them online.

"(They) bottle up their suicidal thoughts, which may become overwhelming".

Belfast Telegraph