Scotland Sees Record Numbers Of Counselling Sessions Regarding Trans And Gender Issues

According to the Glasgow Live official website, as much as 185 counselling sessions have been carried out by Childline counsellors in Scotland regarding trans and gender issues with children as young as 11-years-old.  This record-breaking statistic was noted in the 2015/2016 data collection year where children from age 11 upwards focused on gender issues, primarily the psychological difficulty of displeasure with the birth gender.

During the same annual period, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) have noted that their average counselling session rate over a period of 24 hours held a statistic of 2,796 sessions per day throughout the UK.  This is a recorded average of 8 sessions per day with children who also showed displeasure with their birth gender; a double in the rate of the service since the first record figures in 2012/2013.

Transgender Counselling Changes In Demand

In recent years, trans and gender issues have shown a rapid growth among children in the teenage and adolescent stages of development, with a strong focus being on a difficulty accepting their biological sex to be aligned with their mental gender.  One 16-year-old child male who identifies himself as a female told a Childline counsellor that he, "hates his body and feels hopeless".

The frustration and hopelessness experienced by these children are due to the fact that they feel trapped in the incorrect body having been assigned to, what they feel is, the incorrect biological sex at birth.  Unfortunately, when an individual chooses to speak out about their feelings and opinions regarding their gender issue, the situation of transphobic bullying can occur. 

This violence and cruelty experienced is a strong trigger to the emotional issues the children display when contacting Childline.  It is seen that most children feel desperate when bullied and will frequently speak about self-harming, suffering from different mental health issues, and having suicidal thoughts.  Statistics show that 450 counselling sessions recorded discussions of homophobic bullying, including the topic of transphobic abuse.

Areas Where Transgender Counselling Is Needed

Of course, it is not the transphobic bullying that can result in emotional difficulties for children facing gender issues exclusively.  Data indicated that young trans people included a lack of support from parents and health services to contribute greatly to their mental health problems, including thoughts of suicide.  In 2015, Scotland's Women and Equalities Committee was informed by that the attempted suicide rate for children with trans issues was 48% - a strong indication of how important the need for support really is.

A 16-year-old male idenfitying as Trans stated that he "could not cope with another year like this one" and found it "difficult to talk to my parents as they just don't understand".  This is an issue many trans youngsters face as adults, particularly parents, will often dismiss these trans feelings as a 'phase'.  Childline stated that many of the children noted they felt humiliated and criticised due to this lack of support. 

According to the NSPCC, the only means to avoid these frustrations and overcome the potential of emotion distress with mental health difficulties is through a supportive environment.  By placing a child in a supportive culture, it is possible for the youngster to come to terms with their gender issues without feeling ashamed. 

Helping The Transgender Child

The NSPCC has noted certain guidelines for parents helping their children come to terms with trans issues, these include:

- Beginning conversations by asking gentle, open-ended questions, so the child does not feel pressured.

- Listening to the child and their responses letting them know you are not blaming them or judging them.

- Showing your full support of their decisions and by tailoring responses.

- Letting the child know about different support groups to help with trans issues; as well as giving information about medical professionals and counselling experts who they can talk to.

As counsellors it is important to realise that these trends experienced in Scotland will undoubtedly be being experienced across the United Kingdom as a whole. Gender dysphoria presents some unique challenges and having skilled counsellors to help this niche market is likely to be a growing area of demand. To help clients understand the choices and challenges and be given support is not only likely to remain in organisations such as Childline but potentially through increased private counselling support.