Page last updated at 06:39 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Calls from suicidal young rising

Young girl (generic)
The NSPCC says children feel suicidal for 'complex and different reasons'

The number of "suicidal" children calling a Welsh helpline has risen four-fold in the past five years, a charity says.

NSPCC Cymru/Wales reported an average of nearly 10 such calls a week to its ChildLine bases in Wales last year, amounting to a total of more than 500.

Abuse, neglect, family problems or mental health issues were among the reasons cited for calls.

The NSPCC's Simon Jones said: "We treat every call as extremely serious".

Some 50% of the callers gave their age, and half were aged 12-15, the charity reported.

Some said they had already attempted suicide, while others made attempts while on the phone to a counsellor.

Every child deserves a happy childhood and the chance to grow and experience a full life
Simon Jones, NSPCC

The charity revealed that four out of five calls to bases in Wales about suicide were from girls, but calls from boys were rising faster and were now higher than five years ago.

NSPCC Cymru/Wales issued transcripts of two calls from "suicidal" children.

A 10-year-old girl told a ChildLine counsellor: "I hate my life now Dad's gone because I get blamed for everything and Mum is in the pub every day.

"We never have any money because of her drinking and I've got no friends now. I just want to die".


Another caller, a 13-year-old boy said: "I feel like killing myself. My Mum and Dad beat me and I'm getting bullied at school.

"I don't have anyone else to turn to except ChildLine. No one else would be able to help me; I'm scared of telling anyone."

Mr Jones, NSPCC policy and public affairs manager for Wales, commented: "It is heartbreaking to listen to children talk of wanting to consider suicide. For a suicidal child, ChildLine can literally be a lifeline.

I feel like killing myself. My mum and dad beat me and I'm getting bullied at school
ChildLine caller, aged 13

"Suicidal children tell us they feel utterly lonely and helpless and, apart from ChildLine, nobody seems to care whether they live or die.

"Our counsellors are trained to deal with suicide calls so they can assess the danger and how best to help.

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

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

Mr Jones explained that the children were feeling suicidal for complex and different reasons, but often reported a history of abuse, neglect, family problems or mental health issues.

Others had been driven to the brink by bullying, the death of someone close or exam stress, he said.

'Struggled with emotions'

He said: "We need to remember that behind every suicide is a child or young person who has struggled with emotions or situations in their lives.

"The situation within the Bridgend area brought into focus the issue of youth suicide and we need to learn whatever we can from those tragedies to improve prevention and protection of children and young people across Wales.

"Children can hide their distress so effectively that parents may have no idea their child is suicidal.

"We strongly urge any child who feels suicidal to call ChildLine. Or they could speak to a trusted adult such as their teacher or doctor.

"Every child deserves a happy childhood and the chance to grow and experience a full life. It is vital that children get the support they need."

The NSPCC has called for teachers and doctors to be trained to identify suicide distress signs before children reach crisis point, and wants therapy to be made available for all children who have suffered abuse.

Since ChildLine joined with the NSPCC in 2006, the helpline has been expanded and said it answers more calls from children and young people than ever before. Even so, ChildLine said it was still unable to answer one in three calls.

In response, the NSPCC has called on the public to donate to its Child's Voice Appeal, saying it needs to raise an extra £50m over the next three years, in addition to £30m already pledged by the UK government, so that ChildLine can try to answer every call for help.

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