South Belfast MP backs NSPCC mental health campaign

DUP South Belfast MP Emma Little-Pengelly showed her support for improving children's mental health services by attending the NSPCC's Are You There? parliamentary reception
Dame Esther Rantzen and Emma Little Pengelly MP.

DUP South Belfast MP Emma Little-Pengelly showed her support for improving children’s mental health services by attending the NSPCC’s Are You There? parliamentary reception.

With the UK Government increasingly prioritising children’s mental health, the charity’s event meant MPs were able to discuss the increasingly important role that Childline plays in the mental health landscape.

The event was hosted in the House of Commons on Monday 26 February, where founder of Childline Dame Esther Rantzen revealed the service had delivered 101,454 counselling sessions on mental and emotional health issues in the last year alone.

In Northern Ireland, there were 1,250 Childline counselling sessions for mental and emotional health in 2016/2017.

The issue accounted for a quarter of all counselling sessions – with the youngest child from Northern Irelandcontacting the NSPCC-run helpline being aged 12 years old.

Dame Esther stressed the urgency for investment in Childline as she told politicians and other key stakeholders how two thirds of Childline counselling sessions take place outside school hours, and that children often use Childline as a means of early mental health support.

Some children have told counsellors they are being directed to contact Childline after normal working hours by statutory services, such as child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) or local health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland.

This shows the need for additional out-of-hours support, and is just one of the factors contributing to the huge demand for support from Childline. Currently counsellors can only respond to 3 out of 4 children who need their help.

Ms Little-Pengelly heard from several young people who had benefitted from Childline after suffering from mental health issues, ranging from depression to anxiety.

Barbara Keeley, Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Social Care also spoke at the event and stressed the importance of a mental health support system that is accessible for all children and young people, as well as adequate funding for voluntary services, like Childline, that can provide early support for children.

The funding will help to recruit more counsellors, deliver training to help manage the increased complexity of counselling sessions, and help provide more online resources for children and young people.

It costs £4 for a counsellor to answer a child’s call for help to Childline.