The number of counselling sessions to help children in Scotland deal with suicidal thoughts has increased by almost a fifth over the past year, the NSPCC has reported.

The charity’s phone service Childline provided 1,095 sessions in 2016/17, a rise of 17 per cent on 2015/16 figures.

It said the rise indicated an increase in demand for its services from young people.

Elaine Chalmers, head of helplines for Childline in Scotland, said: “We must face the painful reality that many young people across Scotland and the UK feel so overwhelmed by their problems they have considered taking their own, precious lives.

“We have never seen figures like these before and they are a blunt wake-up call.”

The figure was released ahead of the NSPCC’s annual review of Childline.

Across the UK, the service saw the highest-ever levels of counselling about suicidal thoughts and feelings, with the number reaching 22,456 for 2016/17, up 15 per cent on the previous year.

Volunteers held 2,061 counselling sessions - a nine per cent increase - with actively suicidal young people from across the UK, who had taken initial steps to take their own lives, such as writing a note, giving away meaningful items or planning their death.

Childline president Esther Rantzen said: “I would urge members of the public to consider becoming a Childline volunteer. Anyone who can lend a few hours to this vital service could end up saving a child’s life.”