FOR most children, Christmas is magical. The hustle and bustle of a home full of friends and family, and the excitement of tearing into presents.

But for others it is a time when they feel more alone than ever, when they are struggling to cope with being ignored, bullied and abused.

New figures released today show that in December 2013 trained counsellors for the NSPCC’s ChildLine service carried out almost 23,000 counselling sessions with children and young people from Swindon and across the UK on a huge range of subjects.

The most common reason for contacting ChildLine was family relationship issues – anything from worries relating to parents separating to arguments with family members and wanting to leave home.

This accounted for 13 per cent of all counselling sessions carried out by ChildLine in December 2013.

In the same period more than 1,600 children and young people contacted ChildLine feeling suicidal – a disturbing 38 per cent increase from December 2012.

There was a 36 per cent increase in counselling sessions on the subject of low self-esteem and unhappiness.

In addition, in December 2013 ChildLine counsellors held 776 counselling sessions where children mentioned feelings of loneliness, isolation or exclusion.

ChildLine also reported a 24 per cent increase in the number of counselling sessions on Christmas Day compared to December 2012, speaking to one child every four minutes on average.

The new figures coincide with the launch of the NSPCC’s Call for Help appeal in association with the Swindon Advertiser.

The appeal aims to ensure its ChildLine service is able to offer support and hope to thousands of children and young people from Swindon and across the UK.

The NSPCC offers hope to children in Swindon with its new service centre.

This supports children and families experiencing anything from sexual abuse to parenting problems and care issues. But unlike those supported at the NSPCC Swindon Service Centre, for many children ChildLine is the only place they can turn to for help.

NSPCC regional head of services for the South West Sharon Copsey said: “We are delighted to be involved in this partnership with the Advertiser and to have the chance to tell people about our work, make them aware of the issues that are affecting children and young people and help to ensure that all calls for help to ChildLine are answered this Christmas.”

But the service needs funding and support to ensure that trained ChildLine counsellors can continue to listen and offer help, advice and support to children and young people, whatever their worry.

Text HOPE to 70744 to donate £4 and help answer a call to ChildLine this Christmas.