Anxiety or stress is currently the top reason for young people in Portsmouth accessing counselling via the Kooth digital wellbeing service. Kooth provides a safe and anonymous space for those who might not feel confident in accessing traditional face to face services and is free for Portsmouth’s young people to access.
Darren*, aged 17, from Portsmouth, reached out to Kooth’s counselling team due to feeling lonely and experiencing low mood. He had bottled up his emotions, not talking to his parents or any other trusted adult due to the stigma that he felt exists around mental health.
Darren realised he needed a professional to talk to, but felt speaking face to face was too difficult. He took the step of logging onto Kooth.com, which provides easily accessible and anonymous access to support from skilled professionals. Darren began the process of opening up and is now having ongoing sessions with Kooth’s counselling team.
Young men like Darren might not reach out for support via traditional routes like their GP, however, online support can feel easier. He is now accessing the support he needs and the Kooth team have continued to help him reach his goals to improve his mental health and build confidence to talk to other trusted adults around him.
Commissioned by Health and Care Portsmouth in January this year, Kooth has helped young people to be supported more quickly. 11-18 year olds (up to age 25 for care leavers or those with an Education Health and Care Plan) can register themselves anonymously at Kooth.com, with no referrals or waiting lists.
The site is available 24/7, with counselling available 12pm – 10pm Monday to Friday and 6pm – 10pm at weekends, all year round. In addition to counselling, the site offers a range of self-help resources and wellbeing activities. Young people can join moderated forum discussions about a range of topics, and use a daily journal to track their feelings and reflect on how they’re doing.
All Portsmouth users surveyed on the site say they would recommend Kooth to a friend.
The commissioning of Kooth forms part of Portsmouth’s 2020-2023 Social, Emotional and Mental Health Strategy for children and young people, which includes a focus on ensuring early help is available to support emotional wellbeing and mental health needs, preventing difficulties from escalating and requiring specialist mental health services.
Cllr Suzy Horton, Cabinet Member for Children, Families & Education, said:
“No-one should feel embarrassed or ashamed that they’re struggling with their mental health. It happens to lots of people, especially after going through some of the challenges that Covid has presented like not being able to see friends or family, having to study at home and not being able to take part in activities that you enjoy. Lots of successful public figures like sports stars, actors and musicians have started to talk about difficulties they’ve faced with their mental health and I hope that this will normalise it and encourage young people to open up when they’re struggling and be willing to ask for support when needed.
“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to further enhance our mental health support for young people with an online service as they told us that they liked accessing support this way, especially the ability to remain anonymous. It’s even better that we’ve been able to launch it during the pandemic when we know so many people are finding that their mental wellbeing has been impacted.”
Alison Jeffery, Director of Children’s Services at Portsmouth City Council, added:
“Digital solutions are an important part of our mental health strategy for young people and have become even more essential due to Covid-19, which led to a requirement for remote options as well as increased demand for services. We’re pleased that Kooth has enabled more young people to be supported, more quickly, especially during these challenging times.
“By providing young people with a highly accessible and anonymous way to access support safely from experienced counsellors we hope this is helping to mitigate any stigma that young people may feel about accessing support for their mental health.”
For more information about Kooth and other mental health support services for young people in the city, visit www.portsmouth.gov.uk/youngpeoplementalhealth.
*Darren is a pseudonym