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Helpline witnesses surge of youngsters suffering from anxiety

The number of young people in Northern Ireland seeking help for dealing with anxeity has increased. Photo: PA Archive

There has been a surge of young people in Northern Ireland seeking help for dealing with anxiety, a helpline has said.

The revelation comes in Childline’s annual review, The Courage To Talk, which highlights the work done by the NSPCC-supported service.

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In 2017/18 at Childline’s two bases in Northern Ireland, Belfast and Foyle, 2,267 sessions were recorded in 2017/18 compared to 1,395 the previous year and 1,221 in 2015/16.

Children contacting Childline from Northern Ireland received 378 counselling sessions over anxiety in 2017/18, up from 258 in 2016/17 and 209 the previous year.

The service said the true figure is likely to be even higher with the location of the caller not given in more than 5,000 UK counselling sessions.

Children and teenagers cite a range of reasons why they may be feeling anxious including bullying and cyber-bullying, eating problems, relationship problems and issues at school with homework and exams.

Some also experienced anxiety alongside other mental health issues such as depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, while others reported having suffered abuse, neglect or bereavement.

One girl aged between 12-15 years who contacted Childline said: “I have anxiety and get really bad panic attacks.

“I’ve never known how I could tell anybody about what I’m feeling so nobody else knows.

“I’ve tried to explain it a little bit to my mum, but she thought I was just stressed out about exams and I felt like she didn’t understand.

“Lately everything seems to make me nervous and worried and it’s all getting really hard to cope with.

“I want help from somewhere but I don’t know how to get it.”

Neil Anderson, head of NSPCC Northern Ireland, said anxiety can be a “crippling illness”.

“It is deeply worrying that the number of counselling sessions we are delivering for this issue is rising so quickly,” he said.

“Increasingly Childline is filling the gap left by our public mental health services, providing young people with a place they can go for round the clock help and advice.”

Esther Rantzen, Childline founder and president, added: “I am increasingly concerned at the huge rise in anxiety affecting our young people.

“It seems that the support they desperately need from family, friends, their schools or mental health professionals is either not there when they need it, or is failing them.”