The number of UK youngsters seeking help for anxiety problems is soaring, according to newly realised statistics.
Childline, the NSPCC helpline, gave counselling to 11,706 young people for anxiety in the financial year just ended, a rise of nearly a third from the 8,642 cases reported the year before.
The charity says that while children are calling because they are worried about problems in their personal or family lives, the wider political landscape is also leading to feelings of anxiety. Many said they were worried about the impact of leaving Europe, who would win the US election and whether the Syrian war would lead to widespread unrest.
Childline has been contacted by children as young as eight, with girls being seven times more likely to call with anxiety issues than boys.
And, the NSPCC says the issue among young people is continuing to escalate. Provisional figures from April to September show there were around 6,500 calls in which anxiety was said to be the main problem.
Some youngsters were anxious because of problems in their own life while others had been adversely affected by events they have picked up upon on social and traditional media.
The NSPCC also believes that anxiety is being caused by cyber bullying because young people feel there is no escape. In worst cases, cyber bullying has been found to lead to self harm, and even to young people taking their own lives.
Dame Esther Rantzen, who launched Childline, said it was little wonder that children and young people were sometimes frightened by what they saw going on across the world.
She said: “Seeing pictures of crying and bewildered toddlers being pulled from bomb-damaged homes upsets all of us. Often we fail to notice the impact these stories are having on young people.”
However, she said it was good that children felt able to express their concerns by calling Childline where they could receive reassurance.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “It’s only natural for children and young people to feel worried sometimes, but when they are plagued by constant fears that are resulting in panic attacks and making them not want to leave the house, then they need support.”
The NSPCC recommends listening carefully to a child’s fears and worries before offering reassurance without complicated explanations which could lead to further confusion.