ChildLine sees spike in mental health calls


Mental health difficulties dominate the list of the most common issues about which children contacted ChildLine during 2013/14.

Mental health difficulties dominate the list of the most common issues about which children contacted ChildLine during 2013/14.

The NSPCC, which runs the support service, has reported a 34 per cent increase in counselling sessions regarding general mental health conditions, including issues such as depression and panic attacks.

Furthermore, two-thirds of all its counselling sessions last year related to self-harm, suicidal feelings, low self-esteem, unhappiness or general mental health concerns.

Also of concern is that school and education problems have appeared in the top 10 for the first ever time, after almost 35,000 counselling sessions took place – a 13 per cent rise on the previous year. Calls about exam stress saw a 200 per cent rise.

There has also been an 87 per cent increase in sessions relating to online bullying – there were 42,000 contacts about bullying or cyber-bullying in total. This issue was a particular concern for 12 to 15-year-olds and for boys in general.

In total, ChildLine counselled 280,064 children and supported a further 10,915 who phoned with concerns about another child during 2013/14. The two most common concerns were family relationships and low-self esteem/unhappiness, which featured in more than 80,000 counselling sessions each.

After this, self-harm featured in almost 53,000 sessions while there were almost 50,000 contacts concerning abuse – physical, sexual, emotional or neglect.

When broken down by age, a total of 99,837 contacts were by 12 to 15-year-olds (58 per cent of the total). These were most likely to concern family relationships. Notably, however, counselling sessions about bullying and online bullying ranked second in the list.

For the 16 to 18-year-old age range, there were 51,000 sessions (29 per cent), with family relationships again the most common issue, followed by low self-esteem/unhappiness.

And when broken down by gender, there were counselling sessions with 145,680 girls compared to just 38,889 boys.

For girls, family relationships was also the main issue, followed by low-self-esteem/unhappiness. For boys, bullying/online bullying was the most common issue, followed by family relationships.

In its annual review, ChildLine raises concerns about the spike in contacts about mental health conditions. It states: “There were 24,346 counselling sessions where young people talked about this – an increase of 34 per cent. While this isn’t the category we receive the highest number of contacts about, it is the one in which we have seen the largest increase over the last year and so is important to reflect on.”

School and education issues have also appeared in top 10 list for the first time ever, most frequently mentioned by young people as an additional concern. Sixty-two per cent of these sessions involved 12 to 15-year-olds, while 22 per cent involved 16 to 18-year-olds.

Notably, around half of the counselling sessions on mental health issues featured additional concerns about school and education.

The report adds: “Where school and education was the young person’s main concern, 58 per cent of counselling sessions were about exam stress (7,546). This represented a 200 per cent increase compared to 2012/13. There were also more than 87,500 views of our webpage about this topic.

“Stresses about exams affected young people’s ability to sleep, triggered anxiety attacks, depression and tearfulness, and eating disorders. 

“In some cases it also led to self-harm and suicidal feelings, or made them worse. School and education problems were mentioned as an additional concern in 10 per cent (2,477) of self-harm counselling and 10 per cent (1,743) of counselling with young people feeling suicidal.”

Founder of ChildLine, Dame Esther Rantzen, said: “It is clear that a cluster of problems, such as unhappiness in the family home, the increase in self-harm and eating disorders, the unrelenting intrusion of cyber-bullying and the pressures at school are having a damaging effect on our children’s mental wellbeing.

“We must not only understand how to encourage young people to speak about their unhappiness, and treat these conditions more effectively, but also face up to the reality that far too many of the nation’s children seem to be struggling alone and in despair.”

The ChildLine support line number is 0800 1111 and its website is

Top 10 reasons for contacting ChildLine

All children (no of contacts)

  1. Family relationships: 80,652
  2. Low self-esteem/unhappiness: 80,267
  3. Self-harm: 52,918
  4. Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional and neglect): 49,749
  5. Bullying/online bullying: 42,267
  6. Suicidal feelings: 34,517
  7. School/education: 34,454
  8. Friendship issues: 31,590
  9. Sex/relationships/puberty/sexual health: 28,544
  10. Mental health conditions: 24,346

12 to 15-year-olds

  1. Family relationships: 13,294
  2. Bullying/online bullying: 10,537
  3. Low self-esteem/unhappiness: 10,423
  4. Self-harm: 9,769
  5. Sex/relationships/puberty/sexual health: 6,920
  6. Suicidal feelings: 6,137
  7. School/education: 5,380
  8. Friendship issues: 4,861
  9. Physical abuse: 4,697
  10. Sexual abuse/online sexual abuse: 4,466

16 to 18-year-olds

  1. Family relationships: 7,140
  2. Low self-esteem/unhappiness: 6,214
  3. Sex/relationships/puberty/sexual health: 5,123
  4. Suicidal feelings: 3,660
  5. Mental health conditions: 3,422
  6. Self-harm: 2,966
  7. Sexual abuse/online sexual abuse: 2,585
  8. Pregnancy and parenting: 1,982
  9. School/education: 1,930
  10. Bullying/online bullying: 1,669


  1. Family relationships: 18,144
  2. Low self-esteem/unhappiness: 16,300
  3. Bullying/online bullying: 13,622
  4. Self-harm: 13,015
  5. Sex/relationships/puberty/sexual health: 10,003
  6. Suicidal feelings: 9,833
  7. Friendship issues: 8,306
  8. Mental health conditions: 6,981
  9. Sexual abuse/online sexual abuse: 6,278
  10. School/education: 5,899


  1. Bullying/online bullying: 5,454 
  2. Family relationships: 4,719
  3. Sex/relationships/puberty/sexual health: 4,185
  4. Low self-esteem/unhappiness: 3,005
  5. Physical abuse: 2,743
  6. Sexual abuse/online sexual abuse: 2,054
  7. School/education: 1,707
  8. Sexual and gender identity: 1,641
  9. Suicidal feelings: 1,574
  10. Friendship issues: 1,541


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