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Psychologists to review ChildLine’s response to suicide risks

The NSPCC’s response to children at risk of suicide is to be studied by psychologists at the University of Birmingham in response to an increase in the number of contacts the charity receives about mental ill health and suicide.

The children’s charity has funded a research programme at the University that will enable experts to explore the best way to provide effective help and support to children who contact the charity through its Childline service.

Shaun Friel, Head of Childline said: “Over the past 30 years since Childline started the topics children and young people seek support from our staff and volunteer counsellors has changed. We want to make sure that we are learning from current research and good practice to provide the best support possible to those accessing our services.”

Launching in 1986, Childline provides its services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year through telephone, email and instant messaging as well as web and social media tools to engage with children and young people and deliver counselling and support.

The charity has reported a steady increase in the number of contacts it receives about mental health and suicide and the partnership with the Institute for Mental Health and the Centre for Applied Psychology at the University of Birmingham has been set up in response to this.

Over a focused three-month period, the team of psychologists will review existing policies and practices, and carry out focus groups and interviews with frontline staff. The aim is to ensure Childline’s ability to assess and respond to suicide risk is informed by the best available evidence, and to ensure staff and volunteers have the best possible skills and the confidence to provide advice, support and to make referrals, where appropriate, to other frontline services.

Dr Maria Michail, Senior Birmingham Fellow in the Institute for Mental Health at the University of Birmingham, said: “We know that mental health problems including depression and anxiety are increasing among young people. Suicide rates among people under 25 are also increasing. The NSPCC does vital work in providing support to thousands of young people each year and we are looking forward to supporting them as they seek to adapt and improve their service.”

The programme will draw on working practices of other charities worldwide, to explore other examples of best practice provided in helpline services for children and young people. All the evidence will be drawn together into a programme of co-production workshops with NSPCC staff, members of the research team and members of a youth advisory group to devise a series of best-practice approaches for the charity.

Dr Juliane Kloess, Lecturer in Forensic Psychology in the Centre for Applied Psychology at the University of Birmingham, says: “We hope that by drawing together this comprehensive review of best practice we will be able to ensure that Childline can meet the changing demands on its services, and remain a vital and relevant service for children and young people in crisis.”

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