16 Nov 2016

The NSPCC’s Childline has counselled 11,706 young people for anxiety in 2015-2016, a concerning 35% increase over the 2014-2015 number of 8,642.

The charity has been contacted by children as young as 8, with girls being 7 times more likely to make contact for help than boys.

Personal problems, Brexit, the Syrian war and the US elections are among the topics raised.  Provisional figures show that the problem is getting worse, with the NSPCC quoting 6,500 cases of anxiety reported by young people during April to September of this year. Childline counsellors say that while some youngsters are worried about problems in their daily life, some are disturbed by events they have seen on TV or on social media.

Girls seem to be particularly struggling with the so-called “modern world”.  There is mounting pressure on them from social and online media to achieve perfection in life which is completely unrealistic, but nonetheless is a major cause of anxiety for them.

Depression or anxiety in young people can have a devastating effect on their future development.  A lack of confidence or belief in their own abilities may manifest as underperformance both in education and in the workplace, with all the associated repercussions.  That is why it is so important to recognise signs of these conditions in order that professional help can be sought as early as possible.

Tips for helping children with anxiety:

  • Listen carefully to a child’s concerns
  • Offer reassurance and comfort and avoid complicated and worrying explanations that could leave them more frightened and confused
  • Help them find advice and support to understand distressing events and feelings

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, which formally joined forces with Childline in 2006, said: “The world can be a worrying place but we need to ensure our children are reassured rather than left overwhelmed and frightened.”

“It’s only natural for children and young people to feel worried sometimes, but when they are plagued by constant fears that are resulting in panic attacks and making them not want to leave the house then they need support.”

Young people with disabilities are even more likely to need support.  Conditions such as dyslexia, cerebral palsy or being on the autistic spectrum for example, may give rise to feelings of anxiety in addition to external sources.