Figures published as LGBT History Month commences reveal a 47% rise in counselling about sexuality and gender identity issues.
Childline, the helpline providing a safe, confidential place for children with no one else to turn to, whatever their worry, whenever they need help, has revealed counselling sessions about sexuality and gender identity rose by 47% last year, the highest levels ever seen at the NSPCC-run service.
It carried out 7,729 counselling sessions with children and young people concerned about sexuality and gender identity in 2015-16 – an average of 21 a day.
12-15 year olds were most likely to contact Childline online or over the phone to talk about issues including coming out, self-acceptance and gender dysphoria and transgenderism.
In a quarter of counselling sessions about sexuality and gender identity issues, the young person told Childline they had not previously confided in anyone else, many saying they found it difficult to talk openly with peers and family members.
Childline will be providing advice and video content across its social media channels throughout LGBT History Month to raise awareness of the issues affecting young LGBT+ people such as discrimination and homophobia.
Homophobic bullying was mentioned in almost 450 counselling sessions and can stop young people from speaking out about sexuality or gender identity. In almost a quarter (24%) of counselling sessions about sexuality or gender identity young people told us they suffered from depression, low self-esteem, self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
One young person told Childline: “I’ve been getting bullied for years now. It all started when I came out as gay but it’s been getting worse recently. People in school call me disgusting and they tell me that I should die. It’s really hard to take and I haven’t been coping well. Sometimes I don’t eat or I cut to help ease the pain of it all. I have even tried to skip school a few times. I have tried talking to my teachers but they don’t do anything to help.”
Another told a counsellor: “I’m struggling with my gender identity at the moment. I feel more like a guy than a girl and have been dressing in guys clothes. I have felt this way for a while now but I have kept it all to myself. It’s taken me a lot to talk to someone about this as I am so scared that my parents will find out. I don’t want to speak to my GP in case they tell them.”
Peter Wanless CEO of the NSPCC said: “Talking about sexuality and gender identity can be daunting for anyone, but especially for children and young people who are still trying to find their place in the world. Fear of being stigmatized or subjected to bullying can force many to bottle up their thoughts and feelings which can leave them feeling isolated, and can trigger serious mental health issues.
“It is vital children and young people feel confident and supported to speak openly about sexuality or gender identity without fear of negative reactions and abuse. Adults, be it a parent, relation, teacher or friend, have a key part to play by helping them navigate these difficult and confusing issues, encouraging them to speak out, if not to them, then to peers or Childline.”
Dame Esther Rantzen, President of Childline added: “I have met young people who were desperately unhappy because they couldn’t talk to anyone about issues regarding their sexuality and I am so pleased that they do feel able to talk to Childline and reveal their feelings without being judged or stigmatised. It is not helpful that children use the term ‘gay’ as a common term of playground abuse.
“Furthermore, for years the adult world has created a taboo around these issues which effectively imprisoned young people and in some cases has even led to depression and suicide. Childline is calling upon the adult world to listen sensitively and support young people and protect them from this profound unhappiness and loneliness.”
Any child or young person who wants to talk about sexuality or gender issues can call Childline on 0800 1111 or click here: