Page last updated at 00:06 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Big rise in child suicide calls

Distressed child
Girls were four times more likely to call ChildLine saying they were suicidal

More than 500 young people phoned the ChildLine hotline in Scotland last year saying they were suicidal.

Suicidal calls from children rose from 71 over five years, a seven-fold increase, the charity said.

Girls were four times more likely to talk of suicide than boys. A third of suicidal calls reported physical abuse.

The NSPCC, which funds ChildLine, has called for doctors and teachers to be trained in identifying suicidal distress in young people.

Elaine Chalmers, head of ChildLine in Scotland, said: "It is heartbreaking to listen to children talk of wanting to kill themselves.

"For some children, saying they want to kill themselves is a cry for help, while others see it as the only way to escape their problems.

I feel sad and tearful all the time but I don't know why. I don't think that anyone else has noticed
Teenage caller to ChildLine

"While many callers will not actually attempt suicide we treat every call as extremely serious."

She said many parents might not be aware of their child's feelings because they could be hiding their emotions.

"Every child deserves a happy childhood and the chance to grow and experience a full life," she said.

The rise in suicidal calls in Scotland is steeper than UK figures for the hotline which took 2,925 such calls last year, up from 910 five years ago.

Examples of calls received included a teenage girl who said: "I feel sad and tearful all the time but I don't know why.

"I don't think that anyone else has noticed, no one can help me anyway, nothing is going to change. I'm thinking about killing myself."

Self harm

A teenage boy told counsellors: "My girlfriend has split with me. I feel suicidal. Life is not worth living.

"When I feel suicidal I self harm. It takes the pain away. I'm happy when I'm relieved of pain.

"We got on so well and it is hard without her. I am going to do it but I care about my family and it's making me think about not doing it."

Of those callers who gave their age, 44% were aged 12-15, while 30% were aged 16-18.

The ChildLine service has expanded since it joined the NSPCC in 2006 but it is still unable to answer a third of calls.

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