Childline has received almost 2,500 calls from young people in Scotland struggling with their mental health so far during lockdown.
Since coronavirus restrictions were imposed in March, Childline has held 2,432 counselling sessions with children in Scotland about emotional and mental health issues including loneliness and low self-esteem.
The national helpline, run by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), said counselling sessions about eating disorders and body image have risen by almost a third (32%) from an average of 335 monthly sessions to 443 a month after restrictions came into force on March 23.
Children and young people speaking to the charity’s volunteers about concerns relating to their sexuality and gender identity has also increased from an average of 374 counselling sessions a month before lockdown to 434 after – a 16% rise.
Mental health remains the top reason young people get in touch with Childline, making up over a third of all counselling sessions delivered in the UK.
The release of the charity’s latest figures coincides with the launch of its new UK-wide Nobody is Normal campaign, targeted at children struggling with confidence or feeling anxious they do not “fit in”.
According to the NSPCC, Childline counsellors have heard some children have developed unhealthy eating behaviours for the first time, such as binge eating and bulimia nervosa, and those with existing eating disorders have experienced worsened symptoms or relapses.
Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen said: “The pandemic has cut children off from the reassurance many of them need.
“When young people are facing mental health issues such as anxiety or depression, or are struggling with eating disorders or self-harm, they often hide it from their parents and families.
“A lockdown intensifies stress in all our lives and the Childline team know from past experience that it has made many children feel especially isolated.”
She added: “The Nobody is Normal campaign encourages any children feeling unable to discuss their anxiety and distress to reach out to Childline for support.
“Many young people are under immense pressure from social media to look and behave like everyone else, but the campaign recognises that we are all individuals, special and unique.
“If these tough times have caused children to feel an extra level of anxiety, we want them to feel confident to express their fears and share their worries, and know that Childline is still here for them.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We know that everyone is experiencing different challenges at this time and we know that some children and young people will be anxious or experiencing emotional distress and welcome the support that Childline and others are offering.
“We do not want any child or young person to be unable to access mental health support when they need it.
“We have provided an additional £15 million to local authorities to respond to children and young people’s mental health issues, with a focus on those brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Part of this funding will also support local authorities to develop and implement community mental health and wellbeing services and supports.
“These new support services will be available for five to 25-year olds, their families and carers.
“This is the start of a long term commitment to provide a new type of mental health support alongside psychological services provided through Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).