Lockdown has led to a surge in youngsters seeking help over mental health concerns.
The NSPCC reported a 37% rise in calls from children aged 11 and under, with almost 2,000 turning to its Childline service in desperation.
One eight-year-old girl told them: “I live with just my mum in a tiny flat. I’m always fighting with my mum. After we’ve had a fight I hurt myself because I feel like I’m not good enough.”
The charity has offered a total of 22,000 counselling sessions so far during the pandemic, almost a tenth of them for under-12s.
The NSPCC says the figures – compiled for ITV’s Tonight programme – show children are the virus’s hidden victims.
Young people have told counsellors the lockdown has put a strain on family relationships, increased tensions between parents and caused a rise in arguments. The number of counselling sessions over abuse is up by around a quarter.
The NSPCC has joined 150 other charities urging the Government to put children on a par with health and the economy when it comes to the recovery.
They want extra investment in children’s mental health.
It comes after a report by the Children’s Commissioner for England warned Covid-19 has increased “many of the risks facing teenagers” such as domestic violence, poor mental health and exploitation.
It added the risks had been made worse by the closure of schools, summer schemes and parks, and cuts to mental health support.
Childline founder Esther Rantzen said: “The pandemic has cut them off from the places they’ve relied upon in the past for comfort and support.
“During lockdown, the virus has imprisoned them in homes which may not be safe, with emotional and physical abuse, violence, or neglect.”
NSPCC boss Peter Wanless added: “There’s no doubt the pandemic has had a direct impact on the mental health of many of our young people.
“It’s concerning we’ve seen an increase in children under 11 reaching out for support. The impact is being felt by our youngest children.
“We need an ambitious recovery plan ensuring access to vital services.”
- Contact Childline on 0800 1111 or via 1-2-1 chat at childline.org.uk
- Generation Covid: Our Children in Crisis?, ITV, Thursday night, 7.30pm