A new online support network has been launched to help children and young people struggling with mental health difficulties.
The Youth Counselling service, called Kooth, will complement a range of other mental health support packages provided for youngsters across Berkshire West. It’s primarily aimed at dealing with issues around Covid but will play a key role in supporting the young people re-adjust to life post-Covid.
Kooth, which is live now, provides a seven day a week online platform with a trained counsellor available until 10pm each night. It offers self help and useful psychological information; moderated peer support alongside supervised and professional support. There is also be an option of around 8 sessions with the same counsellor if this is felt the best way of helping the young person.
There’s access to a magazine with personal experience stories and self help tips from other young people, a discussion board, live chat facilities and support for youngsters to write a daily journal to reflect on how they are coping.
The service, which is aimed at 11 to 18 year olds, is being pioneered by Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in partnership with the 3 Local Authorities with support from Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and our local voluntary sector. It’s already up and running in 140 other CCG areas across the country, and last year supported more than 134,000 children and young people.
Kooth will virtually support children who are waiting to see a counsellor and also divert those who don’t need a face to face appointment – freeing up places for more pressing cases. Special sessions for school staff are being held to raise awareness of the service, and there will be posters and information cards available to youngsters when they return to the classrooms in September.
Katrina Anderson, Director of Joint Commissioning for Berkshire West CCG, said: “Kooth is a widely respected tool with a good track record of delivering vital mental health support to children and young people. It’s working very well in many other areas of the country where it is accessible to more than 75 per cent of 11-18 year olds.
“Covid has placed specific challenges on young people - the sudden interruption of their school life, separation from their friends, social isolation, being at home with family members who may be worried about jobs and finances, concerns about health - all on top of the other issues young people struggle with as they are growing up,” she added.
“And these sort of worries won’t go away for many of them when they go back to school in September which is why this easy-to-access online service is so invaluable.
“As we emerge from Covid it’s clear there will be increased pressure on our services that offer emotional and mental health services and Kooth will help ease that demand. People with higher risk needs will still be provided with a network of appropriate support, and the professionals running the Kooth service will also identify cases online that are in need of extra help. However, in many cases, children and young people can be supported very ably by the online service, talking to their contemporaries, sharing their own stories and coping strategies,” she said.
Wokingham Borough Council executive member for children’s services Cllr UllaKarin Clark added, “The lockdown has been hard on all of us, but it has been particularly difficult on our young people. Young people, who would normally spend their days structured around school, have now spent four months isolated in their houses, without their friends, teachers and extended families.
Cllr Clark continued, “Some will have been at home with both parents trying to juggle working from home and home schooling, some will have had a parent who was a key worker having to continue going out to work, some will have been going to school as both parents were key workers – the situation will be different, but the impact on all will be great. Having a service like Kooth is so very important at a time like this. We need to support our young people as we move further through the Covid pandemic.”
Deborah Glassbrook, Director of Children’s Services at Brighter Futures for Children which delivers education, early help and children’s social care services in Reading, said: “I am delighted the Kooth online counselling service is now available to young people in Reading.
“We should not under-estimate the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the mental health and wellbeing of our children and young people. Schooling was brought to an abrupt end for most pupils who then went months without seeing their friends and teachers and lost the daily structure to their lives.
“We have been actively promoting this well-respected counselling service and will continue to do so. I am sure it will be a great benefit to many young people as they adjust to life after lockdown.”