Wales

Child counselling for suicide rises by 25% in Wales

Sad youth Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Anxiety, self-esteem and stress were among the main reasons for children to get referred to counselling

Increasing numbers of Welsh children are seeking help for depression and suicidal thoughts, official figures have shown.

Counselling for suicide concerns increased by 25.8% in one year, up from 244 in 2014-15 to 307 in 2015-16.

Children's Commissioner for Wales Sally Holland said the figures were disappointing.

The Welsh Government said it had taken steps to help young people who were "experiencing emotional difficulties".

More than 11,300 children were referred for counselling in Wales between 2015-2016, according to the Welsh Government statistics.

Family issues, stress and self-worth were the top three reasons for 11 to 18-year-olds being referred to services run by local authorities.

Carmarthen-based youth project Dr M'z said the use of social media and online chat rooms may contribute to young people's worries.

Project manager Gayle Harris said: "In the last couple of years there has been an increase in young people who have been suffering from low mood and unhappiness."

She added: "I think a lot of it has got to do with screen time and social media, we have had incidents with online bullying and young people getting involved in online chat rooms."

Year 10 pupils needed the most support, with 2,326 students referred for counselling in 2015-2016.

Ms Holland said the stress and anxiety associated with GCSEs could be "overwhelming" for 14 to 15-year-olds.

NSPCC Cymru said low self-esteem, suicide and self-harm were increasingly common worries for young people.

A spokesman said: "Swift counselling for those children that require it is essential for their health and wellbeing and it's important that worries and anxieties are addressed as soon as possible."

'Prevention'

Rhondda Cynon Taf had the highest number of children referred for counselling in Wales with 1,607 cases - more than double the average for Welsh local authorities.

Charity Eye to Eye, which provides counselling services for children living in Rhondda Cynon Taf, said long-running services in the area encourage them to seek help.

The charity's co-ordinator Alison Theaker said: "We have a huge service and the reason the numbers are high is because we have a huge input in the community."

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said: "Counselling can support children and young people if they feel worried, frightened or afraid. It is also a means of preventing mental health problems from developing or escalating.

"We have introduced legislation which requires local authorities to make reasonable provision of counselling services for children and young people aged between 11-18 in their area and pupils in year six of primary school.

"At the same time we provided £4.5m to local authority budgets for the continued support of this service."

If you are depressed and need to ask for help, there is advice on who to contact at BBC Advice.

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