Children in 'urgent distress' waiting up to 4 weeks for emergency psychiatric appointments

Childline volunteers say many young people here are suffering with poor self image and early sexualisation

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ISPCC CEO Grainia Long. Image:

Poor self image, early sexualisation of children and viewing of inappropriate content are among some of the emerging trends highlighted by Childline volunteers.

More than 420,000 calls were answered by the support service last year, according to the ISPCC's annual report which is released today. 

The majority of calls came from boys.

Grainia Long, CEO of the ISPCC, spoke to Newstalk Breakfast about the report.

She says the amount of calls they answer "tells us how much [children] are suffering in terms of their mental health, and it also tells us how much work we have to do in order to respond to those needs.

"It is not unusual for a child to wait 18 months for an appointment with a psychologist. We've had cases recently of children in real and urgent distress who have waited four weeks for an emergency appointment for a psychiatrist.

"It's unacceptable, it's no question. I've been looking at these figures since I've worked at the ISPCC for 18 months, and they're going the wrong direction," she explained.

She also told Bobby about the impact of technology on young children today.

"When I ask volunteers in Childline 'what are the things you're worried about?' [...] Without hesitation they say children using pornography and children calling using highly sexualised language.

"They know the difference between a child who is trying to find out about sex and wants to use certain language, and a child who is viewing pornography."

She also repeated her calls for the Government to publish a cyber safety strategy as a matter of urgency.

"Technology in itself is not a bad thing, and we've always said technology in the right way with children helps them to network, helps them to make friends - but it's how technology is used," she argued. "I think we need a national debate and conversation."