Increase in number of lonely young people in the UK helped by Childline
By Catherine Wylie, Press Association
Social media is contributing to a growing number of young people struggling with loneliness, a charity has said.
The latest figures from Childline show that the NSPCC-supported service delivered 4,636 counselling sessions for loneliness in 2017/18 - a 14% rise on the previous year.
Teenagers accounted for most of these, with the youngest person being just 10 years old.
Girls received almost 80% of sessions, with some pointing to the harmful effects of social media use and how comparing themselves to others online or watching people they thought were friends socialise without them made them feel increasingly isolated.
One teenage boy told Childline: "Recently I've been feeling really isolated and alone. I see all my friends having a good time on social media and it gets me down, I feel like no one cares enough to invite me.
"My mood is getting worse and now I'm just upset all the time and can't stop crying."
The NSPCC's Are you there? campaign is calling on the Government to provide funding to Childline so it can help more young people struggling with mental health issues.
Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen said: "Loneliness needs to be taken seriously because it is potentially damaging to children's physical and mental health. The crucial question is what is causing this rise among the young?
"Are we all too busy to make space and time for our children? Is it that we have lost the habit of eating together?
"Or is it the illusion created by social networks that everyone else is liked, popular and enjoying a far more exciting life so they feel lonelier than ever?
"Whatever the reason it's crucial that young people know they can always contact Childline to speak to someone who will listen and care about them."
Pic by Chris Radburn/PA Wire