Wayne Rooney backs Childline's Tough to Talk campaign

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Footballer Wayne Rooney is urging boys to open up about their emotions after new figures show that boys are less likely to seek help for suicidal feelings than girls.

Childline data show that boys are six times less likely than girls to seek support for suicidal feelings. Yet national figures show the number of suicides among boys is much higher than girls.

Rooney, the Manchester United captain and ambassador for NSPCC, is backing the new Childline campaign Tough to Talk, which encourages boys to speak out about suicidal thoughts and feelings.

He said it takes "great strength" to reach out for help.

"Growing up in the world of football, I know there can be a stigma attached to young men showing emotion and talking about their feelings," Rooney said.

"It can be seen as a weakness but the opposite is true and it takes great strength to open up and reach out for help.

"Hopefully, Childline's Tough to Talk campaign will help young people, and boys in particular, see that they are not alone and it's OK to speak out.

"They don't need to suffer in silence. I would encourage any young person struggling with suicidal thoughts to talk to someone they trust or contact Childline."

NSPCC said in 2015/16, Childline delivered 1,934 counselling sessions with boys, compared with 11,463 with girls.

The boys who did get in touch with Childline, an NSPCC-run service, talked about a wide range of issues including relationship worries, abuse, bullying, sexuality and gender identity and mental health issues alongside feeling suicidal.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that across the UK in 2015, 168 deaths were attributed to suicide among males aged 10 to 19, compared with 63 deaths among females.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: "Children struggling with suicidal feelings may feel alone with nobody to talk to and nowhere to turn for help.

"For boys in particular, it can be harder to ask for help due to a reluctance to talk about their feelings, but this could be stopping boys from accessing support when they most need it.

"We hope that by putting the spotlight on male suicide, we can help boys see that they are not alone.

"If they can't talk to friends or parents then Childline is here to listen to them, whenever they need us."

:: Children and young people can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk