Over 13,000 counselling sessions about anxiety were delivered in 2016/17
Thousands of children and teenagers have contacted Childline as they battle anxiety, with some even suffering panic attacks as they struggle to get help.
The latest figures revealed last year the NSPCC-service delivered 13,746 counselling sessions (that’s the equivalent to 38 a day) to young people who suffered with anxiety.
The charity grows increasingly concerned about the impact anxiety is having on young people as counselling sessions about this issue rose by 59% over the last two years.
Worryingly, in over 3,000 counselling sessions young people talked about having panic attacks, which made them feel trapped, faint and left them struggling to breathe.
These figures highlight the importance of children being able to have open conversations about their feelings with a parent or trusted adult. But, for children whose symptoms persist or get worse it is vital they have access to professional support and treatment.
However, some young people have told Childline they do not fit the criteria for Children and Mental Health Support (CAMHS), or have been left on their waiting list for months.
A 17-year-old girl told Childline:
“I suffer with anxiety and panic attacks and find it difficult to leave the house. I was referred to CAMHS but I was on a waiting list for 8 months and during that time my anxiety got worse so I never went because I was too scared. Everyday feels impossible and so difficult and I know I need help but the thought of having to sit there and talk openly, having to re-visit old memories and thoughts with a stranger terrifies me.” Young people have also experienced challenges at home in getting help, with some having their anxiety dismissed by parents as an overreaction or a passing phase.”
In some counselling sessions young people are able to identify triggers for their anxiety such as starting a new school, moving to a new area or upcoming exams; but many don’t think there is any reason for their feelings.
One 16-year-old girl said to counsellors:
“Recently I’ve been feeling anxious and the smallest things make me feel scared. I don’t understand because nothing has happened to trigger it. I’ve just been feeling worse and worse lately. It’s got to the point where I’ve felt so overwhelmed that I just want to run away from it all.”
In some cases, young people turned to self-harm as a means to cope with their anxious feelings, while others told counsellors they experienced other mental and emotional health problems, such as loneliness and depression.
The NSPCC has published advice for parents to help manage their children’s anxiety:
- Listen carefully to your child’s fears and worries
- Stay calm and offer reassurance and comfort when they become anxious
- Find ways to help them relax, such as breathing exercises which is also a good way to control panic attacks
- Encourage them to live healthily and exercise
- Children can always contact Childline free and confidentially 24/7
Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the NSPCC said: “Anxiety is a growing problem in young people’s lives today, and it is not going away. We all need to help children and teenagers find ways to cope with their anxious feelings and not dismiss them as an overreaction. One of the most important ways to help those that are struggling is to make sure they know they always have someone to talk to and they never have to suffer alone, which is why Childline is so vital.”