In 2017, The Royal Foundation founded Mental Health Innovations. At the time, we were certain that harnessing the power of technology would help us to increase the support available for those struggling with their mental health, break the stigma around reaching out for help, and make it possible for more people to volunteer.
In May 2019, Shout was born - the UK's first free, 24/7 mental health text support service, ensuring that people around the country had access to crucial and often life-saving support in the palm of their hands. And in just four years, the team at Shout have held two million conversations with people in need of urgent help.
This has only been made possible by an extraordinary virtual community of dedicated volunteers, providing real-time advice and guidance from home with the support of an expert clinical supervision team.
The rapid increase in demand for the Shout service over the past four years - now reaching up to 2,000 conversations every day - demonstrates the value of a text service in helping people take the vital first step in reaching out.
However, two million conversations is also a sobering milestone, and the level of demand for the service highlights the scale of the challenge facing us. More than half of Shout texters are children and young people struggling with thoughts of suicide and self-harm. Over 50% of service users say that they have no one else to talk to, and a similar proportion have never spoken about their mental health before reaching out to Shout.
It is crucial that the insights gathered through Shout conversations, which are detailed further within this report, are used to learn how we can tackle this challenge head on. By using this data, we can help to ensure that we are equipping young people with the skills they need to better understand their emotions, develop effective coping strategies, and seek support before they reach crisis point.
Catherine and I are incredibly proud of Shout and the help it has provided to so many people since its inception. The potential for the service to continue to drive positive action and move the dial on how we approach our nation's mental health is so exciting. Whilst there is still much work to be done, I hope that this report provides a positive picture about what can be achieved with a little innovation.