3,000 called Childline last year in mental distress

More than 3,000 children who called Childline last year had serious mental health needs and more than 500 were described as being “in crisis”, it has emerged.

“Even if we knew who these children were and reported them, they could be waiting a year for mental health services,” said ISPCC director of services Caroline O’Sullivan.

It emerged last week that three out of four teenage girls who died by suicide recently were known to child protection services and had been on lengthy waiting lists for psychology services.

One of the girls could not access a mental health service in the days before her death, according to the National Review Panel.

Last year, the ISPCC received 3,214 calls from children about mental health issues that needed to be addressed.

An assessment of the calls found that 883 children needed immediate support. There were 528 children who were in crisis — 303 had spoken about taking their lives, while 71 had self-harmed.

“It is just not good enough that these children should have to wait for the help they so desperately need,” said Ms O’Sullivan.

The assessment was based on 8,530 mental health-related calls made to Childline last year and the number of such calls has been increasing steadily year on year.

Ms O’Sullivan said every effort was made by Childline to link children with somebody who could help them.

The National Review Panel published reviews relating to the deaths, since 2010, of 12 children known to state services.

In respect of the death of a teenager called Aoife, who took her life shortly after her 19th birthday, the independent group found no direct link between the quality of service and her death.

However, no social worker had been allocated to her case and, before she went into care at the age of 15, a total of 18 workers had been involved in her care.

It was also found that 13 social workers were involved with a boy called Donal who was in care and died in a road traffic accident.

Ms O’Sullivan said for a lot of children, social workers are assigned to them for a very short period of time.

“How can you have any hope of these children developing resilience and being able to cope with their situation and achieve their full potential,” she asked.

“Children need one good adult in their lives but, unfortunately, there are lots of children we come in contact with through Childline who don’t.”

Children’s rights activist and senator Jillian van Turnhout said: “All too often we are telling young people to ask for help but the help has to be there when they ask for it.”

Ms van Turnhout said the way a young person’s mental health issue is treated can define their whole life.

“I had depression when I was 17 years old,” she said. “I did not know what was happening to me. I was lucky, the condition was not that serious and my parents paid for the help I needed... I know how to deal with myself when I am not feeling 100% because I have the coping skills.”

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