Children feeling 'alone and trapped' amid coronavirus lockdown, says Childline volunteer

Neil Homer volunteers as a Childline counsellor in the West Midlands. Today the 52-year-old from Great Barr explains the pressure being placed on young people in uncertain times.

Expert help is a phone call away
Expert help is a phone call away

Since the start of January, Childline has delivered nearly 7,000 counselling sessions to children and young people who have got in touch about coronavirus.

Our team of frontline counsellors continue to adapt to the ever-changing situation and support children who are struggling with their mental health or are at risk from abuse or neglect.

We record the top concerns of young people across all of our sessions and in the period since the coronavirus crisis began, three of the four top main concerns relate to mental and emotional health and wellbeing.

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Every week since lockdown the service as a whole has delivered over 2,000 counselling sessions with children concerned about their mental health and emotional wellbeing – totalling nearly 17,000 over seven weeks.

For many young people, the difficult circumstances they were already facing, which can include abuse, domestic violence and difficult family relationships, have been exacerbated during lockdown leaving them feeling alone and trapped.

I have been volunteering for Childline for 10 years and have clocked over 3,000 hours’ worth of time in the counselling room but I still get butterflies before I go in because you just don’t know what you could get.

Some children that I have spoken to recently feel that the world is a scary place and everything might not go back to how it was before. Some young people are missing friends and school, and the routine that surrounds that. Some feel that they are falling behind on school work and are worried about the impact that will have on grades.

Young people are also spending a lot of time with their family during lockdown – something that they are not used to which could lead to arguments and them not feeling safe. We have also noticed we are talking to lots of young people who haven’t contacted the service before, which shows how vital the service is at the moment.

One girl recently told Childline: “I am scared about the coronavirus. I am finding it hard to cope at the moment and it feels like it’s the end of the world. When I was little I developed OCD and had been to therapy which has helped me to deal with the stress better. However, the coronavirus has triggered it again and I don’t know what to do. Please help.”

Another girl got in touch and said: “I’m going through a lot right now. I feel anxious about everything. I’m stuck at home and having a horrible time because my sisters are bullying because I’m autistic. I feel so upset and lonely. On top of that my mental health service appointments have been cancelled because of coronavirus. The news has made my mental health worse and now all schools have been closed there are more arguments at home.”

NSPCC volunteer Neil Homer from Great Barr

This paints a harrowing picture of how worried some children are at this moment. When children get in touch with us about coronavirus-related worries and concerns, we try and reassure them that the feelings they have at the moment are normal feelings.

We talk about their fears and the reasons why the lockdown is happening so they are better informed and understand the situation more.

We encourage them to keep talking to people about their anxieties and fears – that could be a trusted adult, friends or even a teacher.

To continue to support children during this challenging period, and to adapt to the ever-changing situation, the NSPCC launched its emergency appeal ‘We’re still here for children’ in April.

The NSPCC is urging the public to visit its website and donate £10 to help fund vital services like Childline, so we can continue to answer calls and be here for the young people who desperately need someone to talk to.

Volunteers have stepped up during this crisis to ensure that those that need help can get it.

Many have increased their hours during this crisis to help the service meet the needs of children at this time.

If the last few weeks have proved anything, it shows how crucial volunteers are to keep vital services like Childline running for the sake of children.

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