Childline reports surge in young people seeking gender identity counselling during coronavirus lockdown
Childline has seen a significant increase in the number of children seeking counselling for gender identity and sexuality during the coronavirus lockdown.
Since lockdown measures were introduced on March 23, the average weekly number of counselling sessions about sexuality and gender identity given by Childline has increased by 12 per cent.
The counselling service, which is delivered by children’s charity the NSPCC, gave 2,300 counselling sessions about gender identity and sexuality to young people between January and June.
Children who’ve been struggling with or questioning their gender identity have been telling Childline they feel overwhelmed and afraid to come out, and that their mental health has got worse during the lockdown.
“During lockdown we’ve seen an increase in young people coming to us with concerns about their sexuality and gender identity, many are struggling with their mental and emotional health,” said Alex Gray, Childline service manager.
“Lockdown has made it harder for many young people to talk openly about their gender and sexual identity or be their true selves at home, especially if they fear a negative reaction from those they are isolating with.
“A Childline counsellor is sometimes the first person they have told about how they feel.”
During Pride month, Childline gave 116 counselling sessions per week to young people that were focused on gender identity or sexuality, compared to 92 a week in May.
One young transgender person*, 16, said that they’d been “really struggling” with the lockdown.
“I struggle with gender dysphoria and recently I’ve been feeling really sad and cry non-stop,” they said.
“I feel disgusting with the way I look, I can’t even look at myself in the mirror. I’ve told my family but my dad said he will never understand what’s going on and my grandparents has stopped seeing me. I don’t know what to do.”
Childline data has revealed that the increase in young LGBT+ people seeking help during lockdown is part of a larger increase in children aged 11 and under seeking help for their emotional wellbeing.
Counselling sessions for 11-year-olds and under have gone up 37 per cent compared to before the lockdown.
One 14-year-old* said: “I’m feeling confused and worried. I’m just having a lot of gender identity problems going on and I feel like I don’t know who I am.
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“Normally I would go and play football or meet with some friends but due to the lockdown I can’t do that anymore. I feel trapped and the lockdown has forced me to focus on my gender identity and I don’t know who I can talk to.”
The NSPCC says it is concerned that children are the “hidden victims” of the lockdown, and along with 150 other charities is urging the government to prioritise a children’s recovery plan, including mental-health support, alongside health and the economy.
Gray added: “It’s encouraging to see that young people feel able to talk to Childline, without fear of being judged or stigmatised.
“We want young people to know that they can come to Childline with any worries they may have, we are here to support all young people.”
Young people can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or via 1-2-1 chat on childline.org.uk.
*All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the child or young person. Quotes are created from real Childline service users but are not necessarily direct quotes from the young person.