A children’s helpline has reported a 17% rise in counselling sessions about mental health with youngsters under 12 in the past year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
NSPCC said its Childline service has held 243 counselling sessions with children in this age group about their mental and emotional health since last April, compared with 207 in the previous year.
It said counsellors have recently heard from children trying to deal with school closures, the introduction and easing of lockdowns, concerns about the virus and social isolation.
Childline has carried out 3,664 counselling sessions in total with children in Scotland about their mental or emotional health since last April, with anxiety or stress the most common topic – discussed in 1,748 sessions.
This was followed by low mood (1,006), confidence issues (569) and depression (496), while other topics mentioned were worries about the world, loneliness and bereavement.
One 10-year-old boy who rang the helpline earlier this year told Childline: “I’m feeling really sad and upset that I can’t spend time with friends and play with them because of another lockdown.
“I’m not returning to school for another five or six weeks and the news about the number of deaths from Covid-19 has made me more scared. I don’t feel like I can tell my mum how I feel inside as it will upset her.”
NSPCC is now asking families and friends to celebrate childhood by organising a play event on June 11 to raise money for the charity and help keep more children safe.
Dame Esther Rantzen, founder of Childline, said: “Throughout this pandemic, children and young people have had to deal with so many difficult new challenges, many knowing that their families were struggling with health worries and financial issues, some locked down in unsafe homes, deprived of their schools which may have been their only refuge.
“Many have told Childline that they have struggled to cope and their mental health has suffered as a result.
“Childline’s counsellors have been tremendously impressed by the resilience of so many young people during the pandemic, supporting themselves and each other. Nevertheless, we are all only too aware that not only education has suffered, but so has the opportunity to play.
“My grandchildren have told me how much they have missed their friends during lockdown. Play is such an important part of childhood, building confidence and creating relationships.
“After the year we’ve had, I am really looking forward to joining my own family on Childhood Day. I do hope as many families as possible will be able to do the same, to enjoy each other’s company and have fun and play together.”
NSPCC supporter Dr Ranj Singh also urged people to support Childhood Day.
He said: “Young people have experienced so many different challenges to their mental health this year. Lots will have played less because they’ve been stuck at home, but as restrictions ease and opportunities for play increase it’s important we recognise its benefits.
“Play can help children work through difficult emotions, encounter new experiences and build resilience, confidence and self-esteem.
“In light of this, I’m backing the NSPCC’s Childhood Day and encouraging families up and down the country to get playing on the 11th of June.”