Sending a text message to seek mental health support has enabled many people to reach out for help for the first time, according to a new study
The Coronavirus pandemic has brought challenges and difficulties to millions across the UK. Rates of anxiety, stress, and grief have skyrocketed, and long periods of lockdown have left so many isolated, cut off from friends and family.
In place of face to face interactions and hugs, the simple text message has been one of the many ways we’ve remained connected. Our phones have helped us to foster a sense of community; group chats to vent frustrations of homeschooling or working from home, to share funny memes to cheer each other up, or to talk about the latest news.
But, texting has also been an avenue for many people to reach out for mental health support for the first time, according to a new study. Research by Shout 85258 found that more than a third of people seeking help through its platform had never spoken to anyone else about how they were feeling.
What is Shout?
Shout 85258 is a free 24-hour text message-based mental health support service. It can be accessed at any time by texting the word “Shout” to 85258.
Launched by the charity Mental Health Innovations in May 2019, Shout was born out of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry’s mental health campaign, Heads Together.
The idea was to bring free digital intervention in the form of text message support to anyone in the UK who is struggling to cope. The service offers a secure and free platform for confidential conversations about mental health, around the clock, when other support is not available.
Particularly during this unprecedented time, Shout 85258 has been a critical support service – a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of people in the UK. The service said it was seeing around 750 conversations a day in early 2020 (before the start of the pandemic), but this has since risen to an average of around 1,400 conversations per day at the start of this year.
“It is clear that the pandemic and its aftermath have had a huge impact on mental health that’s likely to be enduring, particularly for the younger generation,” Victoria Hornby, chief executive of Mental Health Innovations said.
The study showed that nearly two-thirds of those using the messaging service were under 25, which it said highlighted the importance of offering text support for those who are more digitally minded. It also reported that 55% of those who used it said they felt they did not have anyone else they could talk to.
The service’s latest report outlines the extraordinary, positive impact Shout has made in the face of this – acting as a warm, helping hand to those who are struggling, and a vital crutch for those in their darkest moments.
“Our conversations have provided positive, early intervention for many, taking the pressure off other services and, in some cases, de-escalating suicide risk,” said Hornby.
How can online mental health support help you?
For many of us, digital conversations are becoming more common and, particularly for children and young people, texting (rather than talking) is a natural way for them to reach out for help.
For sections of society, such as the Deaf community, texting offers a form of communication that’s fully accessible. For others, particularly key workers who have been working under the pressures of the pandemic, text messages offer a way to remain anonymous and speak to someone in a non-judgemental environment.
Texting offers an alternative way to open up and share problems you haven’t been able to speak out loud. It also gives a valuable and lasting record of an action plan, that you can return to whenever you need to or use as a starting point for a conversation with a parent or GP.
Text isn’t the only form of digital support available, though. Therapy can also be accessed via phone call, email, and video platforms, such as Zoom. These online services make getting the help you need easier than ever before.
If you’d like to find out more about online mental health support, visit Counselling Directory. Currently listing more than 15,000 professional counsellors offering online therapy, you can find the right therapist to help you navigate this difficult time, and beyond.
If you are in immediate danger of harming yourself or others or finding yourself at crisis point, call 999 or go to A&E.
If you need immediate, free advice or someone to speak to, you can: