In a paper from our research partnership with Imperial College London and the Institute of Global Health Innovation, we explore how our Shout 85258 text messaging service uses natural language processing (NLP) to better understand the mental health needs of texters across the UK at scale and to evaluate the effectiveness of the service.
The research paper has been published in Frontiers and is free to access.
Read the full paper here.
Shout 85258 is a free mental health text messaging service, powered by Mental Health Innovations, which provides 24/7 support for individuals in the UK experiencing mental or emotional distress and seeking help.
The current mental health crisis is a growing public health issue requiring a large-scale response that cannot be met with traditional services alone. Digital support tools are proliferating, yet most are not systematically evaluated, and we know little about their users and their needs.
This paper details the study of a large data set of anonymised text message conversations and post-conversation surveys compiled through Shout. This data provides an opportunity to hear at scale from those experiencing distress, to better understand mental health needs for people not using traditional mental health services and to evaluate the impact of a novel form of crisis support.
We use NLP to assess the adherence of volunteers to conversation techniques and formats and to gain insight into demographic user groups and their behavioural expressions of distress. Our textual analyses achieve accurate classification of conversation stage, behaviours and texter demographics, exemplifying how the application of NLP to frontline mental health data sets can aid with post-hoc analysis and evaluation of quality of service provision in digital mental health services.
- Zhaolu Liu (Department of Mathematics, Imperial College London)
- Robert L. Peach (Department of Mathematics and Department of Brain Sciences, Imperial College London)
- Emma Lawrance (Institute of Global Health Innovation and Mental Health Innovations)
- Ariele Noble (Research Psychologist, Mental Health Innovations)
- Mark Ungless (Director of Data Insights, Mental Health Innovations)
- Mauricio Barahona (Department of Mathematics, Imperial College London)