Page last updated at 23:37 GMT, Sunday, 26 July 2009 00:37 UK

Big rise in male ChildLine calls

A crying boy (posed by actor)
The rise in calls may be because boys feel less pressure to be macho

A record number of boys called the children's counselling service ChildLine last year - double the amount seeking help five years ago.

More than 58,000 boys phoned the charity in 2007/8 with problems ranging from loneliness to violent abuse.

Most calls to ChildLine are from girls - but during the past five years the proportion made by boys rose from one in every five to one in every three.

Boys are most likely to call about bullying, with 12,568 cases last year.

Head of ChildLine Sue Minto said: "Desperate boys call because they feel they have no-one to turn to.

"It's heartbreaking to hear their stories of rape and violent beatings, often by their parents."

She continued: "There's still the stigma that boys don't cry but it may be there's no longer so much pressure to be macho.

"They sometimes suffer in silence for months - by the time they call us they can be suicidal."

The calls included one from a 14-year-old boy who said: "My dad hits me with a belt as punishment.

"This happens once or twice a month and leaves marks for days."

Vivid memories

Another boy, 17, told a counsellor: "I was sexually abused by a relative when I was a child.

"I have very vivid memories - I still feel angry that it ever happened."

The most common concerns of boys calling in 2007/8:
Bullying, 12,568 calls
Physical abuse, 6,403 calls
Family problems, 6,016 calls
Facts of life, 5,362 calls
Sexual abuse, 4,780 calls
Sexuality, 3,510 calls
Loneliness, 1,817 calls
Rape, 1,803 calls

Alex Gray, a ChildLine counsellor, said: "Sometimes you have to work hard to get boys to talk about what's really troubling them.

"But once they do they're surprised that someone's there listening to them."

ChildLine was launched in 1986 to provide youngsters with free and confidential advice.

It is run by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).

Children's Minister Delyth Morgan said: "ChildLine is a vital resource for thousands of children and that is why the government is providing £30m to support the expansion of the NSPCC helpline.

"Bullying must be stamped out and bullies must be made to understand the harm they have been doing."

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