Figures have revealed that the number of children and young people speaking about coming out as LGBTQ has seen a 29 per cent increase across the UK.

Since April 2020, Childline have delivered more than 5,000 counselling sessions about gender identity and sexuality.

And a Tyne Valley therapist says that while it can be tempting to look for a reason, there is more to it than just lockdown.

Karen Pollock, gender sexuality and relationship diverse psychotherapist at Counselling in Northumberland said: “I don’t think we can ignore the impact of lockdown and the pandemic. Some children have been in crisis who maybe don’t have the outlets that school and their friends were giving them.

“Some children found lockdowns really hard with the same fears that their parents had – money worries, fears of catching Covid, and worry that they may never see grandma again. If you’re questioning your gender or sexuality on top of that, it’s an awful lot for a young person to carry.”

Of course, it can be terrifying talking about coming out without the added worries that the pandemic has thrown up. It may be that many of the children who have had such counselling sessions are not in homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic households – but are still worried what reaction they will get.

A young person who spoke to Childline said: I want to tell somebody that I’m gay, but I just can’t find the courage to. I don’t want people to judge me or treat me any differently if they find out. Some people really hate gay people and I’m scared of what will happen if I tell someone.”

Karen said: “One of the first things for every kid is that they want to be loved by their parents. If you think of anybody being rejected by their own parents, it is a wound that takes a very long time to heal. Even just the fear of that rejection can cause stress, anxiety, and depression, and children can sit that out for a long time.

Karen offered some words of advice for parents and children alike. To parents, they said: “One of the best things you can do is make it clear that you’re accepting of LGBTQ people without asking the definitive question ‘are you gay?’ Be affirmative with what you talk about and the TV shows that you watch.”

For kids, they said: “Remember that saying you might be gay or transgender doesn’t mean you’re deciding the rest of your life, nothing is set in stone. You’re just talking about your worries. It’s the talking that matters.”

This Pride Month, Childline is reminding young people that the service is here for them. All children can speak to a trained counsellor over the phone, via email or on a 121 chat on the Childline website.