Dame Esther Rantzen has warned of a surge in mental health problems in young people

The Childline founder says fewer grandparents, aunts and uncles leave kids with no one to tell worries to.

And she said not talking about issues they may be unable to share with parents was a key factor in children’s unhappiness.

Childline stats show the number of mentions of “anxiety” in its counselling sessions almost doubled from 11,706 two years ago to 21,706 in the past year.

And more than a third of its sessions were for kids suffering problems with their mental and emotional health. Speaking at the charity’s annual review, Dame Esther said: “I had an extended family and for the things I couldn’t talk about to my parents, there was somebody there who accepted me unconditionally because I was family.

“Families need to ask themselves if there is enough emotional support — whether they’re giving young people enough time.” She added: “I think that in all kinds of ways the nuclear family has become isolated.”

She also warned of mounting pressures from social media and fears of climate change bringing about “worrying times” for the current generation of children.

THE number of under-18s being treated for addiction to anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax has doubled from 161 in 2016 to 315 last year, Public Health England figures show.


They were more likely than boys to call about suicidal thoughts and feelings, with 19,061 girls having counselling sessions for these reasons in 2017-18.

Hollie Evans, 20, called the charity after a suicide attempt aged 16.

Hollie, of Kent, said: “Afterwards I was able to talk calmly about what had happened. That chat stopped me from going back and trying again.”

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