By Carla Malseed

THE very nature of this global crisis means that people feel out of control – with unprecedented decisions being made about us and for us. But amid the uncertainty and instability it is important that people’s concerns are heard, and particularly for children who are maybe feeling anchorless, confused and scared during this time. More than ever, they need to feel they can speak out and that their concerns will be listened to.

In the past few weeks, Childline has seen a steady increase in the number of children contacting the counselling service with concerns about the coronavirus. Children have spoken about their fear of catching it, of family members becoming infected and dying, and about being isolated and feeling lonely. And it has exacerbated anxiety in some children already dealing with mental health issues.

Between January 21 and March 15, Childline delivered more than 300 counselling sessions to children across the UK, with counsellors in the Scotland bases, Glasgow and Aberdeen, carrying out 60 of these. Almost half of the contacts were made in the final week of this time-period. The most common age group to get in touch with concerns relating to the virus was 12 to 15-year-olds.

Now with schools essentially having closed and youth and public services unavailable, more children are at risk of feeling isolated and alone. The Scottish Government’s pledge to “not cut adrift vulnerable young people who often rely on school life for a safe, nurturing and supportive environment” is heartening. However, for these children as well as others, usual sources of support might not be available and, more than ever, it is vital they have somewhere to turn. Our Childline counsellors play a pivotal role in doing this.

Last year, Childline delivered almost 15,000 counselling sessions to children in Scotland, and during this public health emergency we are rolling out plans to ensure as many counsellors as possible can continue to work and carry on providing this essential service. Measures being put in place by the Scottish Government for education provision for children of key workers will hopefully ensure that the closing of schools will not reduce the number of our counsellors further. Our dedicated volunteer counsellors are thoroughly briefed at the start of each shift so they are well prepared to help children and young people cope and stay safe during this period.

Crucial to our Childline service, particularly at such a time, is the support that children can get online both from our counsellors and their peers. Three-quarters of our counselling sessions are in the form of online chats. Our message boards, which are available 24 hours a day, allow children to share their concerns and advice with each other and help them not to feel so alone.

The Childline website is regularly updated to reflect children’s concerns about the coronavirus, and its Calm Zone suggests various drawing and writing activities, breathing exercises and videos to help with anxiety and worry. Children can also keep informed and get up-to-date advice on the Young Scot website.

It is imperative that children’s concerns are not dismissed – whether they are about Coronavirus or any other issue – and that even during these exceptional circumstances with remarkable uncertainty they know their safety and wellbeing is of paramount importance.

Children and young people can contact Childline with any worries or concerns on 0800 1111 or via

Carla Malseed is Local Campaigns Manager for NSPCC Scotland