Grandparents should be brought back into children's lives to help tackle a surge in youth anxiety and mental ill health, says Dame Esther Rantzen. The Childline founder said children's wellbeing was being harmed by the "fragmentation of the family" and a lack of nearby supportive relatives. She said children should be given an automatic legal right to see their grandparents, as they are in France. Many parents were too busy to meet children's emotional needs, she added. Dame Esther made the comments as children's charity NSPCC, which runs youth counselling service Childline, released figures showing the demand for support with anxiety had doubled over the past two years. It provided more than 21,200 sessions for young people trying to manage feelings of anxiety. Hollie Evans, now 21, said a call to Childline after a suicide attempt in hospital effectively saved her life. It had allowed her to speak to people again, open up and seek the therapy she needed to get better, she said. The telephone helpline service originally focused on offering support to children fearing for their safety but is now taking up a bigger role in helping a growing number of children with mental health issues.
Dame Esther said: "When I was a kid, I had extended family around me. The things that I couldn't talk about with my parents, I could speak to my extended family about. We had family meals together - there was a social context in which maybe somebody would notice that you weren't feeling tremendously happy.” Dame Esther highlighted how grandparents of children caught up in battles over family separations in the UK often had to go to court to regain access to their grandchildren. In countries such as France, grandparents had an automatic right to their see grandchildren, she said, adding that should be adopted in the UK. Dame Esther said with high profile people, including the the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex, talking about such problems, young people had been given permission to open up about their anxiety.