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‘Huge spike’ in UK Childline counselling sessions around coronavirus worries

By Jemma Crew, PA Social Affairs Correspondent

Childline has delivered more than 900 counselling sessions to children worried about coronavirus – the majority taking place in the last week.

The service said it has seen a “huge spike” in the number of counselling sessions relating to the Covid-19 outbreak in the last seven days.

Almost two thirds (597) of the sessions took place between March 16 and March 22, as working from home increased and school closures were announced.

Of these, more than 50 counselling sessions were with children having suicidal thoughts exacerbated by the virus.

On March 18, the organisation delivered 121 sessions.

One girl told Childline: “My mum is being very distant with me and I am usually very close to her, it’s really upsetting me.

“My mum and I have a good relationship but she’s really obsessed with the news and she won’t hug me or get very close to me.

“It scares me to think this will go on for months. She constantly talks about the coronavirus and my anxiety is getting worse.”

The Government has given Childline staff and volunteers key worker status so they can continue to keep the service running during the weeks of uncertainty ahead.

More than half of the children who received sessions said they are worried about their mental health as they are faced with isolation, arguments at home and the removal of support from school.

Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen said: “Sometimes young people find it difficult to share their anxieties with their parents, for fear of worrying them further. So it is important that families talk about their feelings, together.

“We are hearing from children who have been cut off from vital support networks such as school, and friends, and that has increased their feelings of loneliness and vulnerability.

“They may have pre-existing mental health issues which are exacerbated by the current crisis.”

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “The 24/7 news cycle about coronavirus is causing huge worry and anxiety in young people – particularly those who are already coping with many other issues in their lives.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “We know that young people may be worried in what is an unprecedented situation.

“We are acting across Government and working with the NHS and Public Health England to ensure support is there for the young people that need it, and we are grateful to Childline’s staff and volunteers for everything they do to support vulnerable children.

“We understand the measures the Government is taking to stop the spread of coronavirus will be a change for many families, but our absolute priority is to protect the NHS and save lives.”

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