MPs call on health secretary to fund charity after record number of suicidal thoughts calls

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, left, and Halifax MP Holly Lynch
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, left, and Halifax MP Holly Lynch

MPs in Yorkshire and Humberside have supported the NSPCC’s calls for the government to increase its funding for Childline after record numbers seeked help for suicidal thoughts.

The 16 MPs from the region including Halifax's MP Holly Lynch have signed an open letter to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, backing the child protection charity’s Are You There? campaign.

A total of 130 MPs and peers have signed the open letter after the helpline saw a rise in demand from children struggling with suicidal thoughts.

The MPs and the NSPCC are asking that a slice of a £300 million pledge set out in the recently-published Government green paper Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision be used to fund the service.

Latest figures show that in 2015/16, Childline counsellors had to alert emergency services on average six times a day about children who were talking about suicide.

In 2015/16 there were 19,481 counselling sessions about suicide held by Childline – this is 120 per cent increase compared to 2010/11 where there were 8,835.

The letter to the health minister read: “Services like the NSPCC’s Childline are now on the front line of mental health support for young people.

“Last year one in three Childline counselling sessions were about mental health and emotional wellbeing. The majority of these took place outside school hours – many in the middle of the night.”

Last week the NSPCC revealed that since April 2014 schools made 35,069 referrals to NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in the North of England, but almost a third of these were deemed ineligible for treatment.

The charity and MPs are now warning that increased demand for support across specialist CAMHS, schools and the voluntary sector is placing the system under real pressure, jeopardising the well-being of thousands of children.

In the letter to Mr Hunt they said: The NSPCC urgently needs to increase both the number of available volunteers and to improve and expand the training that they receive.

“This will ensure that Childline is equipped to support the more complex mental health needs children are coming to the service with. It surely deserves Government support and investment.

“When a child is brave enough to reach out it is absolutely vital that the immediate response and support is there for them.”