UK Family Law Reform

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ChildLine sees rise in suicidal children

23rd March 2009

Children's helpline ChildLine has seen calls from suicidal children triple in the last five years.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), which runs the free 24-hour helpline, said it received an average of almost 60 calls from suicidal youngsters every week. Of that number, one in 14 needs urgent medical care or is in immediate danger.

Some children told counsellors they had already tried to kill themselves while others made attempts to do so while on the phone.

Almost a third of suicidal callers told volunteers they had been physically abused, with one in five children disclosing sexual abuse.

Ten-year-old Sophie told a 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 child, Paul, 13, 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."

Children can feel suicidal for a number of reasons, including family problems, bullying, abuse and exam stress, said Sue Minto, head of ChildLine.

She added: "It is heartbreaking to listen to children talk of wanting to consider suicide. For a suicidal child, ChildLine can literally be a lifeline.

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

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

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

We want parents to be given guidance on how to spot possible signs, how to listen to their child's worries and where to find help."

The NSPCC said 80 per cent of calls to ChildLine about suicide were from girls, but calls from boys are rising fast and are now four times higher than five years ago.

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