Childline counselling sessions about mental health issues peaked at 101,454 last year, as stagnant funding from Government prompts call to action.
The number of children seeking help from the NSPCC-run service specifically for mental and emotional health, self-harm or suicidal thoughts and feelings rose 12%.
The NSPCC is calling on Government to increase the amount of funding it gives to Childline to help meet this rising demand, to support children 24 hours a day and to help them before they reach crisis point.
Last year Government proposed in its Green Paper the introduction of mental health support for children and young people in schools.
However, two thirds of Childline counselling sessions about mental health issues took place outside school hours (5pm-9am), demonstrating the additional need for out of hours support.
Some children told counsellors they are being directed to contact Childline after normal working hours by statutory services, such as child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) or local authority children’s services in England.
More than 50,000 referrals to CAMHS were rejected last year with many cases not meeting the clinical threshold.
Childline plays an important role in helping children who are struggling with their mental health, but who do not meet the clinical threshold for access to CAMHS.
At present Childline counsellors can only respond to 3 out of 4 children who need their help, as more and more children are using online counselling which requires more time and resources to answer.
The charity is calling on Government to increase funding for the service so Childline can be there for every child who needs them whether that is during the day, night or at the weekend.
Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the NSPCC said: “Increasing mental health support in schools will be an important step to ensure more children get the help they need. But we know that children don’t only experience mental health problems during the school day.
“Government funding to Childline has remained the same, whilst demand for counselling about mental health continues to increase. It is vital that Government urgently provides more funding to help children who don’t have access to support elsewhere.”
Childline is reliant on funding from the public, with 80% of it coming from voluntary donations. The charity needs extra help from the Government to ensure the vital service is not vulnerable and can continue to be there for children whenever they need help and someone to talk to.
Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder and President of Childline said: “More young people than ever before tell Childline they are overwhelmed by serious mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, and we are seeing this reflected in the amount of counselling sessions we are delivering. Our counsellors know we are literally saving lives, and it concerns us deeply that we cannot help every child who desperately needs to reach us.
“Childline is often the first place young people come to for help because they know they can talk to us in confidence when they have nowhere else to turn. Childline has been a life-line for millions of children and young people for the past 31 years, and these figures show how much of a vital service Childline continues to be.”
The NSPCC is calling on members of the public to sign their petition to Government asking for Childline to become a more central part of the proposals put forward in the recent Green Paper, and for funding to be increased accordingly.
Children and young people can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk