Childline in Leeds counselled more than 250 youngsters on gender and sexuality issues last year

Esther Rantzen pictured during a vistit to Childline in Leeds last month
Esther Rantzen pictured during a vistit to Childline in Leeds last month
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Childline's call centre in Leeds carried out more than 250 online counselling sessions last year with youngsters in connection with  gender and sexuality.

And Childline said its Leeds centre dealt with with 93 counselling sessions specifically about concerns around coming out in 2018/19 compared to 70 in the previous year.

The charity revealed the figures during a Pride month campaign to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues amongst young people, from understanding sexuality to coming out.

The NSPCC wants to remind all young people that Childline is confidential and there for them if they have any concerns about their gender or sexual identity.

Nationally, Childline carried out 6,014 counselling sessions with children and young people about issues relating to gender and sexuality last year.

The NSPCC-run service saw a 40 per cent increase in concerns about coming out, from 1,508 counselling sessions in 2017/18 to 2,110 in 2018/19.

In Yorkshire & Humber during 2018/19 the Leeds Childline base carried out 257 online counselling sessions with children and young people about issues relating to gender and sexuality.

Although a counselling session took place at a particular Childline base, the child or young person could have been contacting the service from anywhere in the UK as they are put through to the first available Childline counsellor.

Children as young as 11 who spoke to Childline about their gender or sexual identity spoke about experiences of bullying and issues with their mental or emotional health.

One boy told counsellors: “I have been feeling depressed and suicidal for about three years. My parents don't understand me at all. I came out as Trans and they think it’s just a phase and refuse to accept me. I am in pain.”

Homophobic bullying was mentioned in 573 counselling sessions, with one young person telling Childline: “I’m getting bullied by people at my school because I am bisexual.

"They call me horrible names and tell me I should kill myself. I feel depressed about it all the time. I have tried talking to people about it for support but they just tell me I should ignore the bullies, which doesn’t help.”

The transgender page on the Childline website has seen around an 80 per cent increase in number of page views between 2017/18 and 2018/19.

The most common age group to contact Childline about these issues were 12 to 15 year olds, and 409 of the counselling sessions were with 11-year-olds or younger.

Munroe Bergdorf, model, activist and Childline LGBTQ+ campaigner said: “There’s nothing wrong with being LGBTQ+, expressing your gender or even being unsure of your gender.

"No-one should ever make you feel like you shouldn’t exist because you feel differently to them.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that your emotions or feelings don’t matter because if you hear it enough it will break you. Find friends, teachers, parents or organisations like Childline who you can open up to and express any worries or concerns you have.”

Dame Esther Rantzen, founder and president of Childline, said: “I have met young people who were desperately unhappy because they couldn’t talk to anyone about issues regarding their sexuality or gender, and often turn to Childline because they fear they would lose their friends and be rejected by their families if they disclosed their feelings to them.

"So I am glad that they felt able to talk to Childline and reveal their feelings without being judged or stigmatised.

“I know that some adults feel uncomfortable talking about these issues with young people, but if we create a taboo around them, that can make children feel guilty, rejected and in some cases has even led to depression and even suicide. We all need to listen sensitively and support young people and protect them from this profound unhappiness and loneliness.”

Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline seven days a week on 0808 800 5000, or email help@nspcc.org.uk

Children can call Childline anonymously on 0800 11 11 or go to www.childline.org.uk 24-hours a day.