The number of children being counselled for anxiety by Childline is at its highest level ever, and some believe their feelings aren’t being heard by the people closest to them.
The support service delivered 13,746 counselling sessions about anxiety in 2016/17 – that’s equivalent to 38 a day. This is an increase of 59% over two years, as in 2014/15 they delivered 8,643 sessions or anxiety.
The NSPCC also revealed that in 3,304 counselling sessions a young person talked about having panic attacks, which made them feel trapped and struggle to breathe.
“Recently I’ve been feeling anxious and the smallest things make me feel scared,” a 16-year-old girl told Childline. “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.”
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, 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.
“One of the most important ways to help those that are struggling is to make sure they know they always have someone to talk to and they never have to suffer alone, which is why Childline is so vital.”
The charity revealed that some young people have been told they do 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 told Childline: “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 and 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 re-visit old memories and thoughts with a stranger terrifies me.”
Young people have also experienced challenges at home, with some having their anxiety dismissed by parents as an “overreaction” or a “passing phase”.
In some cases, young people turned to self-harm as a means to cope with their anxious feelings, while others told counsellors they experienced other mental and emotional health problems, such as loneliness and depression.
In response to the increase in figures, the NSPCC has published advice for parents to help manage their children’s anxiety:
1. Listen carefully to your child’s fears and worries.
2. Stay calm and offer reassurance and comfort when they become anxious.
3. Find ways to help them relax, such as breathing exercises which is also a good way to control panic attacks.
4. Encourage them to live healthily and exercise.
Dame Esther Rantzen, founder and president of Childline said: “It’s only natural for…