NSPCC: Thousands of abused children ‘left to fend for themselves’

Posted by er134 at Sep 10, 2015 10:26 AM |
University of Leicester academic comments on report

Issued by NSPCC Press Office on 10 September 2015

  • Every 6 minutes a child calls ChildLine feeling anxious, isolated and depressed
  • 1 in 10 contacts to ChildLine about abuse, latest report reveals
  • Leading Leicester academic adds support

ChildLine received nearly 100 contacts a week last year from children who have been abused and whose mental health and wellbeing are suffering as a consequence, the charity’s latest annual report reveals.

In all 85,000 counselling sessions for young people with mental health-related concerns – equal to one every six minutes - were undertaken in 2014-15 by the NSPCC’s free, 24-hour service.  Counsellors from bases across the UK including the East Midlands helped young people suffering from unhappiness, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem and diagnosed mental health disorders such as bipolar. Of these over 5000 involved children who also sought help for sexual or physical abuse.

Disturbingly, many felt they had been left to fend for themselves, with the number of children unable to get vital help more than doubling.

It is well established that abuse can trigger mental health issues such as depression, self-harm, anxiety, and on occasion suicidal thoughts, so it is crucial that young people are able to receive support easily. One in ten calls to the confidential service was about abuse.

The number reporting unhappiness and low self-esteem issues rose by 9% to 35,244. And those troubled by anxiety almost trebled to 8,642, the report, ‘Always there when I need you’ revealed.

One 15-year-old who contacted the East Midlands base said: “I’ve been really down and lonely for a while now. I don’t see my friends much anymore and spend most of time in my bedroom. I feel as if I have so much pain inside and I don’t know how to release it. There isn’t anything particular that is making me feel this way and that’s the hardest thing because I don’t know how to make things better. I feel so down and upset.

Another teenage girl told counsellors: “I feel like all my friends are pushing me away. They leave me out when they make plans for shopping and they keep secrets from me. I try to pretend that it doesn’t bother me by smiling but inside I just want to cry. I asked my parents if I could change schools but they said that I shouldn’t be so weak. I don’t know what to do, I feel really lonely.”

Four of the top five concerns about accessing services related to mental health and well being. Lengthy waiting times, lack of out-of-hours support, service closures, and absence of information contributed to young people feeling frightened that they could not cope, leaving them unable to eat or sleep. They also fretted about ‘opening up’ for fear of being a burden or seen as attention seeking and said ChildLine counsellors were the only ones they could turn to.

The lack of services, and waiting until crisis point to discuss their concerns could lay the foundations for long-term mental health problems. Untreated anxiety disorders can spiral into clinical depression, self-harming, and suicidal feelings in adulthood, the report warns.

Panos Vostanis, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Leicester commented: “The young people who contact ChildLine have taken a massive step in having the courage to seek advice.  These individuals have a number of hurdles to overcome. Not only do they have the traumatic experience they have been through to deal with, they also have mental health problems as a result and also the difficult issue about how access to suitable therapeutic services.   From my daily work with children and young people I know that the more entrenched these mental health issues become, the harder it is to intervene and with an uncertain future concerning mental health services this is an issue we all need to grasp.”

During 2014/15, ChildLine carried out a total of 286,812 counselling sessions. As well as being worried about mental health, young people were also concerned about abuse, family relationships, bullying, friendships and relationship issues, and school and education problems.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said: ““The road to recovery from abuse is long and often children are crying out to ChildLine because they have no one else left to turn to. Thousands of vulnerable children– many of whom have been abused - are silently coping with serious issues that leave them racked with worry when instead they should be getting help to rebuild their childhoods.  We risk failing a generation of children if we leave them without the vital support they need to recover.

ChildLine founder, Esther Rantzen said: “Many of today’s children feel utterly miserable – for some, they feel that life is not worth living. We need more help and support for young people. We must give them a chance to tell us what is in their hearts.”



  • Statistics come from the latest ChildLine Annual Review ‘Always There When I Need You’ and cover 2014/15.
  • During 2014-15, ChildLine carried out 286,812 counselling sessions with children and young people.
  • Four of the top 10 concerns related to mental health and wellbeing.
  • ChildLine received 85,181 contacts about mental health and wellbeing issues in 2014/15.
  • Where a mental health or wellbeing concern was the young person’s primary concern, 6% (or 5,120) had abuse as an additional concern.
  • Mental health disorders are categorised as conditions which are significantly interfering with the young person being able to lead a normal life – such as bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.  Low self-esteem and unhappiness is when the young person in unhappy, anxious and/or suffering from low self confidence/esteem but their mental state is not significantly affecting their ability to lead a normal life.
  • The top 3 concerns counselled were family relationships, low self-esteem/unhappiness and abuse.
  • 4 of the top 10 issues related to mental health. These issues were self-harm, suicide, low self-esteem/unhappiness and mental health conditions. Together they accounted for almost one third of total concerns.
  • There was an average 124% (776 in 2013-14 increased by 962 to 1738 in 2014-15) increase in the number of counselling sessions where young people talked about problems accessing all services, such as family services.
  • Four of the top five concerns about accessing services related to mental health. The other top concern about accessing services related to family relationships.
  • In 2014/15 there were 876 reports of difficulties accessing mental health and wellbeing services – such as therapy - compared to 380 in 2013/14. This is a 131% rise.
  • The sorts of services mentioned include Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services, Children’s Services, GP – mainly this is for counselling, therapy, advice and support.
  • Online counselling continued to grow, rising from 68% in 2013-14, to 71% in 2014-15. Telephone calls account for 29% of counselling sessions.
  • The ChildLine website received over 3.2 million visits – 5% more than in 2013-14.
  • Anyone looking for advice about keeping children safe online, or concerned about the safety and welfare of a child, can contact the NSPCC’s 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk
  • Children worried about online safety or any other problem can call the free, 24-hour helpline on 0800 1111 or get help online at www.childline.org.uk

Please note: Credit for counsellor with headset image: Photography by Jon Challicom

Credit for image of boy leaning against chest of drawers: Photography by Tom Hull. Child pictured is a model.


"All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the child or young person. Quotes are created from real ChildLine contacts but are not necessarily direct quotes from the young person."

“I am depressed and anxious and really worried about my mental health.  I saw my GP 8 months ago and was referred to CAMHS. As of today I still haven’t heard anything from them and I am fed up waiting.  My family are really unsupportive and I don’t feel I can call my GP again as I find it hard to make phone calls.” (Girl aged 16)

“I am in care and have been feeling suicidal.  I just feel everything has got too much and I have plans of how I am going to end my own life.  I have a mental health team and tried to ring them this evening but couldn’t get through.  My social worker was meant to visit today but didn’t turn up.  I just feel so let down by all services – I trusted them but now I don’t feel I can rely on them or tell them how I am feeling anymore.”  (Girl aged 16)

“I’ve been feeling pretty rubbish for ages and lately I have become paranoid and anxious. I am having trouble sleeping as I am constantly worried something bad might happen. I can’t really talk to anyone about it as I am worried that they will think I am wasting their time.’ (Girl 12-15)

“I can’t really talk to anyone about how I’m feeling, I’m scared they will think I’m crazy and treat me differently. Some days I am ok but most days I sit in my room and cry for no reason. I feel so empty and don’t know what to do. I just want to be normal but I feel so trapped.”  (Boy, 13)

“My GP has booked me in for some therapy but there’s a six-month waiting list. I don’t know if I can hold on until then; I feel so stuck.”  (Girl, 16)

“I had my last counselling session today but I don’t feel as if I am in a better place yet. I’m scared that I will end up going back to how I was initially feeling.” (Girl, 15)

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