The pressures of modern-day life are leaving some children and teenagers feeling overwhelmed and leading to a sharp rise in the number seeking help for anxiety.

In 2017/18 Childline, which today launched its annual review ‘The Courage to Talk’, delivered 21,297 counselling sessions to young people from across the UK who were trying to deal with feelings of anxiety – almost double that of two years ago.1

At Childline’s two bases in Northern Ireland, Belfast and Foyle, 2,267 sessions were recorded in 2017/18 compared to 1,395 the previous year and 1,221 in 2015/16.

Children contacting Childline from Northern Ireland received 378 counselling sessions over anxiety in 2017/18, up from 258 in 2016/17 and 209 the previous year, but the true figure is likely to be higher with the location of the caller not given in more than 5,000 UK counselling sessions.

Across the UK at least 88 per cent of the support provided by Childline for anxiety was given to girls, reinforcing how they are struggling to cope with growing up.

Children and teenagers cite a range of reasons why they may be feeling anxious including bullying and cyber-bullying, eating problems, relationship problems and issues at school with homework and exams.

Some also experienced anxiety alongside other mental health issues such as depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, while others reported having suffered abuse, neglect or bereavement.

‘The Courage to Talk’ details how in 2017/18 Childline delivered 106,037 counselling sessions to young people experiencing problems with their mental and emotional health and wellbeing.

This is a 5% increase on the previous year and more than a third of the total number of counselling sessions provided online and over the phone.

One girl aged 12-15 who contacted Childline said:

“I have anxiety and get really bad panic attacks. I’ve never known how I could tell anybody about what I’m feeling so nobody else knows. I’ve tried to explain it a little bit to my mum, but she thought I was just stressed out about exams and I felt like she didn’t understand.

“Lately everything seems to make me nervous and worried and it’s all getting really hard to cope with. I want help from somewhere but I don’t know how to get it.”

The figures reveal the increasingly important role Childline is playing in the child mental health landscape.

Esther Rantzen, Childline Founder and President, said: “I am increasingly concerned at the huge rise in anxiety affecting our young people. It seems that the support they desperately need from family, friends, their schools or mental health professionals is either not there when they need it, or is failing them.

“Fortunately Childline is here to comfort and support them.  But we must ask why for some young people is the world becoming such a difficult place? Unless we find effective answers to this question we know the anxieties they suffer from can get worse, leading to suicidal thoughts or chronic mental health problems as they get older.”

Neil Anderson, head of NSPCC Northern Ireland, added: “Anxiety can be a crippling illness and it is deeply worrying that the number of counselling sessions we are delivering for this issue is rising so quickly. Increasingly Childline is filling the gap left by our public mental health services, providing young people with a place they can go for round the clock help and advice.”

NSPCC Childline service provides a safe, confidential place for children with no one else to turn to, whatever their worry, whenever they need help. Children can contact Childline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0800 1111 or by visiting

Ellen Greene

Author: Ellen Greene

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