MENTAL Health Innovations (MHI) has contributed a value of £2.3m to the charity sector since the public launch of its Shout 85258 text messaging support service in May 2019, as revealed in the charity’s first-ever impact report, recently published.
The contribution comes as a result of MHI establishing partnerships with 41 third sector organisations, including The Mix, Young Minds, Sign Health, Best Beginnings and Contact, that supports veterans, enabling them to provide 24/7 mental health support via Shout 85258 to their beneficiaries for free. MHI’s current cost per conversation is £10; since launch, the charity has delivered a value of £2.3m to the third sector through these partnerships.
MHI was created in 2017, thanks to The Royal Foundation’s largest-ever grant and as a legacy of its Heads Together initiative, to develop digital tools to improve the nation’s mental health. Other founding funders include BBC Children in Need and the Mohn Westlake Foundation.
In May 2019, MHI launched its first service, Shout 85258, after a year-long pilot. Shout is the UK’s first 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope. It is free, confidential and anonymous. Anyone in the UK can start a conversation with a trained volunteer any time of the day or night by texting ‘SHOUT’ to 85258.
MHI’s first impact report shows that, between May 2018 and March 2021, Shout took 668,435 conversations with 277,841 children, young people and adults across the UK in need of immediate support.
The most common issues children, young people and adults texted Shout for support with were suicide (33%), depression (33%), anxiety (32%), relationships (26%), loneliness (17%) and self-harm (14%). Shout de-escalated risk for thousands of people with suicidal ideation, with 83% of texters who mentioned suicide finding the conversation helpful and 70% feeling calm afterwards.
The digital mental health service has proven to be a vital resource for children and young people in particular, with 64% of texters under the age of 25 and 7% under 13. It also provides a means of support that people can’t get elsewhere, with 55% of all texters saying they don’t have anybody else to talk to.
Shout has trained 6,910 trained volunteers in the UK and New Zealand who power the service, enabling Shout to provide unbroken support to the UK population round the clock; which is essential as demand is greatest outside the hours of 9am-5pm (74%).
As a digital service, Shout was one of the only mental health services able to operate as normal during the Covid-19 pandemic. As such, demand doubled during this time (from 23,301 conversations in January 2020 to 45,434 in January 2021).
While the pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of large swathes of the population, MHI recognised the impact on health, care and emergency frontline workers in particular and partnered with Samaritans, Mind, Hospice UK and The Royal Foundation to launch Our Frontline coalition, offering a complete package of mental health support for all frontline workers.
Victoria Hornby, CEO of Mental Health Innovations which powers Shout 85258, said:
“Our mission to improve the mental health of the UK population through technology has never been as important as it is today. With the Covid-19 pandemic having such a wide, deep and enduring impact on the mental health of the nation, demand for digital mental health support has skyrocketed.
“We want to ensure that Shout 85258 is here for anyone who needs mental health support, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We will therefore continue to work with the charity sector, public sector and private organisations to extend our reach to underserved communities and those who are in the greatest need of support, but who don’t feel able to reach out to more traditional mental health services.”
MHI partners with Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation who are taking novel approaches to understanding data gathered from Shout’s anonymised conversations. This vast and unique dataset lets the charity rapidly analyse, at scale, the immediate needs and experiences of people in mental distress across the UK.
Lord Darzi, Co-Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London, said:
“Amidst the current global crisis, we have seen a rise in the number of people struggling with significant mental health burdens. The impact of Covid-19 will exacerbate the current demand for mental health services, placing strain on the system, and making investment in prevention of heightened importance. The rapid growth of Mental Health Innovations’ first digital service, Shout 85258, directly addresses this need.
“The immediacy of Shout can be vital to preventing mental health crisis by supporting people as soon as they need it, with the unique power to reach previously underserved communities, providing unrivalled insight into why so many people, particularly the young, are suffering from mental health problems today and how best to help them.
“Shout has benefited hundreds of thousands of people across the country to date and, although there is much work still to do, this success, together with a growing appetite to realise the enormous potential for heightened impact, augurs well for tangible progress ahead in tackling this most important challenge.”
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