Text message service boosting mental health support in lockdown

17 February 2021, 00:04

A woman using a mobile phone
Technology stock. Picture: PA

A new study shows that many people have sought support for the first time through the Shout 85258 service.

Being able to send 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.

Research by Shout 85258, a free 24-hour text message-based mental health support service, found that more than a third of people seeking help through its platform had never spoken to anyone else about how they were feeling.

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 messaging service was launched by the charity Mental Health Innovations in May 2019, having been founded with a grant from The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

It can be accessed at any time by texting the word “Shout” to 85258.

According to the new study, the messaging service was busiest in response to news events, and the coronavirus pandemic, in particular, had had a clear impact on people’s mental health.

The Shout 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 1,4000 conversations per day at the start of this year.

“When Mental Health Innovations publicly launched Shout 85258 in May 2019, our aim was to bring free digital intervention in the form of text message support to anyone in the UK who is struggling to cope,” Victoria Hornby, chief executive of Mental Health Innovations, said.

“Since then we’ve swiftly grown to become an essential 24/7 mental health support service, supporting more than 1,000 people every day.

“We have a community of more than 2,200 volunteers and staff in the UK and New Zealand. This report is a testament to partnership, collaboration and innovation, and the extraordinary, selfless commitment of thousands of volunteers, to whom we are incredibly grateful.”

Jason Knauf, chief executive of the Royal Foundation, said the study’s findings showed how important new technology was to encourage people to talk about their mental health.

“It was just a few years ago that Their Royal Highnesses and the team at The Royal Foundation started considering new ways to use technology to help people have conversations on mental health wherever they are,” he said.

“We are incredibly proud to celebrate this milestone for Shout 85258 and Mental Health Innovations today. This is a service that is saving lives and changing them for the better. And as we continue to confront the mental health challenges brought by the pandemic, this work could not be more important.”

By Press Association