Childline has found boys are five times less likely to talk with the service’s trained counsellors about their mental health than girls, and even less likely to come to them when they have suicidal thoughts.
New statistics from the NSPCC-run service show in 2020/21 they carried out 31,899 counselling sessions with girls about mental health issues compared to 5,622 with boys.
When it came to counselling sessions about suicidal thoughts and feelings, they delivered 11,719 with girls but just 1,592 with boys.
Despite fewer boys talking to Childline about feeling suicidal than girls, the latest national data for registered deaths in England and Wales shows 122 boys aged 10 to 19 died by suicide. In the same year 52 girls took their life.
When comparing these two data sets, it is clear that speaking out and seeking help from services like Childline can save a child’s life.
Which is why Childline has launched its ‘We All Feel It’ campaign, to support young males who are struggling to speak about their mental health and to help them before they reach crisis point.
The campaign video features popular clips from the world of sports, social media and gaming to reflect the emotions some young people may struggle to articulate. It encourages boys in particular to use Childline to help them make sense of anything that has upset or worried them.
Childline counsellors hear from boys who say they feel isolated in their experiences and are reluctant to reach out for help due to the stigma they feel around sharing their feelings.
One young male aged 18 told Childline: “I’m worried because I feel so depressed all of the time and have been thinking about suicide more lately. I confided in someone at work that I wasn’t doing very well mentally and they didn’t reply to my message. I feel really embarrassed about telling them how I was feeling.”
In 20% of counselling sessions where boys mentioned if they had confided in anyone else, they said it was the first time they had spoken to anybody about their suicidal thoughts or feelings.
An 18-year-old male told a counsellor: “I've had intrusive thoughts for as long as I can remember, and sometimes they can make me suicidal. I would love to speak openly about it with my mum, but we've never had that sort of relationship and I fear she wouldn't believe me or take me seriously. To be honest, I have no one in my life that I can speak to, so just putting down my thoughts alone is like a weight that’s been lifted.”
Suicide is a complex issue and there is rarely one single factor or event that leads someone to take their own life. It is usually a combination of lots of different individual, community and societal factors interacting with each other to increase risk.
‘We All Feel It’
Developed with creative agency Livity, the campaign aims to resonate with boys and remind them Childline is always there and ready to support them, with whatever they are experiencing, 24 hours a day.
Alex Gray, Service Head of Childline said: “At Childline, we know how hard it can be for children to speak out about their mental health.
“In particular, it can be really challenging for boys due to the pressures they feel around not showing emotion and appearing strong due to toxic masculinity.
“At Childline, we want to remind all children that sharing their mental health concerns with a trusted adult or a Childline counsellor is a brave thing to do and it will enable them to get the help and support they need.
“Talking about mental health issues early on can prevent things escalating and can save a young person’s life.
“We hope that by putting the spotlight on male mental health we can help boys understand that they are not alone.”
Children and young people can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk.
Childline has been supported by the Postcode Children’s Trust for four years and has recently given the service crucial funding of £1,000,000 -the equivalent of running Childline for an entire month – enabling counsellors to continue to save lives.