Last January, Kooth, the online counselling and emotional wellbeing service, was commissioned by Health and Care Portsmouth for children and young people in the city.
Kooth has enabled children and young people to access support more quickly which has been particularly important given the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and wellbeing.
In its first year in Portsmouth, there have been almost 1,600 registrations for the service and over 7,500 logins. Anxiety or stress was top reason for young people accessing counselling, with self-harm and suicidal thoughts also top presenting issues.
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. Children and young people aged 11-18 can register themselves at www.kooth.com with no referral needed and no waiting list for accessing support.
The commissioning of Kooth is in line with 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. By tackling problems early, this can help to prevent difficulties from escalating and requiring specialist mental health services.
The Health and Social Care Committee’s recent report on Children and young people’s mental health noted that “Particularly for children and young people who experience shame or stigma around their mental health, the guarantee of anonymity that some digital services offer can remove an important barrier to early intervention.”
Digital solutions are also a key part of Portsmouth’s Social, Emotional and Mental Health Strategy for children and young people and became especially important during the pandemic. Kooth is accessible via any device with internet and 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.
100% of Portsmouth users responding to a questionnaire on the site’s homepage have said they would recommend Kooth to a friend.
Cllr Suzy Horton, Cabinet Member for Children, Families & Education at Portsmouth City Council, said: “I’m pleased that Kooth has become an integral component of our mental health support in Portsmouth and a valuable resource for young people over the last year.
“Nobody should feel embarrassed or ashamed if they’re struggling with their mental health – but we know that sometimes young people might find it daunting to tell someone they are struggling. With the ability to access support anonymously via Kooth, I hope this has helped young people to feel safe and confident in exploring their concerns and seeking professional help if needed.”
Dr. Lynne Green, Chief Clinical Officer at Kooth said: “We know from our research that children and young people’s mental health has been seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But although the conversation around mental health issues has never been higher, the barriers to access to mental health care still remain.
“Good emotional health is as important as our physical health, and it’s important that young people are able to access help as soon as they need it. Kooth offers a safe and confidential space for young people to get support for any issues they are struggling with without a referral, whilst allowing them to remain anonymous. We are delighted that Kooth has helped and will continue to support children and young people in Portsmouth”.
To further support early intervention, new guidance has recently been launched on the Portsmouth City Council website to help families and those working with children and young people to identify social, emotional and mental health issues. It also details when and where to get support from services such as Kooth. The guidance can be found at: www.portsmouth.gov.uk/SEMHguidance.