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30% hike in calls to ChildLine about sexuality during pandemic as young people cut off from support networks

There has been a 29% increase in the number of young people speaking to ChildLine advisers about sexuality and ‘coming out’, the helpline has revealed.

gender identity

More than 5,000 counselling sessions were delivered by ChildLine in the last year on the subject of sexuality and gender identity issues – with the rise in young people talking about ‘coming out’ rising by almost 30% on the previous year.

Alex Gray, Service Head of Childline said: “At Childline, we know that coming out or speaking about sexuality and gender identity can sometimes be really challenging.”

“Some children with sexuality and gender concerns revealed that lockdown had been particularly hard for them, as they’d been cut off from their usual support networks. Whereas others told Childline that lockdown had given them the confidence and freedom to come out to their friends and family. However, some worried they may have lost this confidence when returning to school,” he added.

Since April last year:

  • A total of 5,046 Childline counselling sessions have been carried out with young people about gender identity and sexuality.
  • In 2,638 of these counselling sessions a young person mentioned coming out as a concern - a 29% increase from the year before, with some also talking about worrying about the reaction they would get from other people.
  • In 1,467 counselling sessions young people also talked about their mental and emotional health as an additional concern to gender identity and sexuality.
  • In 1,023 counselling sessions, young people spoke about family relationships.
  • Other related concerns include school, friendship issues and self-harm.

While many young people found lockdown difficult and struggled with being cut off from their usual support networks some described it as a time of reflection and a chance to take stock, and others spoke of finding confidence during this time to come out to their friends and family.

One 12-year-old girl who called ChildLine said: “I want to tell somebody that I'm gay but I just can't find the courage to. I don't want people to judge me or treat me any differently if they find out. Some people really hate gay people and I'm scared of what will happen if I tell someone.”

Childline is a free service for children and young people and, since the first lockdown began, has delivered an average of around 17,000 counselling sessions a month.

Alex Gray added: “No matter what a young person’s experience is with coming out or speaking about their gender identity or sexuality, at Childline we believe every young person has a right to be listened to and to be able to speak about any worries or questions they may have about their gender identity and sexuality without feeling judged.

“If a young person feels unable to speak to a trusted adult in their life then we would encourage them to speak to Childline,” he concluded.

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