This Children’s Mental Health Week, Best For You has partnered with text support service Shout to explore the impact of the pandemic on children and young people.
New data from Shout shows that the proportion of children aged 13 and under using their service has grown by 47% since 2019.
Children and young people are seeking support for serious concerns, including self-harm and suicide. Last year, 27.5% of conversations with children aged 13 and under were about self-harm (a 17% increase since 2019).*
35.9% of conversations with children aged 13 and under were about suicide (a 29% increase since 2019)*.
These numbers are alarming. Young people’s mental health is at crisis point, and things continue to get worse.
Victoria Hornby, Chief Executive of charity Mental Health Innovations, which powers Shout, says: ‘Our daily conversations have increased by 180% since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and are continuing to rise.
‘Every day we speak to hundreds of young people who are feeling overwhelmed and often suicidal – like 12-year-old Jack** who started experiencing severe anxiety during the pandemic. He spent more and more time on his own, no longer connecting with his friends and struggling with online school. He became anxious about the future and whether life would ever get back to normal.
‘Things had become so difficult for him that, one evening, he decided to end his life. That night, he texted Shout. The volunteer who responded guided Jack to a calmer place and worked with him to find the courage to phone the emergency services, who came and helped him.
‘For every young person who texts us, we know there are many more who need support but don’t know where to turn. Sometimes it can be easier to text than to say the words out loud to a friend, someone in your family or even your teacher, which is where we can help. If you are feeling worried, anxious or overwhelmed, text ‘NATTER’ to 85258 to start a conversation with a trained volunteer any time of the day or night.’
Shout and Best For You
We need to take action. And we need to do so fast, to support the increasing numbers of young people who need help, are self-harming, or are thinking about ending their own lives.
Shout and Best For You are working together to raise awareness of the impact the pandemic is having on children and young people and provide the support they urgently need.
Dr Ritu Mitra, Consultant Psychiatrist, Best For You, explains: ‘Our teams are seeing the devastating effects the pandemic is having on the mental health of our children and young people in particular. It’s deeply concerning how many more young people are self-harming or feeling that suicide is the only option.
‘We hope that this week serves as a much-needed reminder to everyone to come together to tackle this mental health crisis. We need to talk about the issues around mental health, offer support, and spread the word about services that can help young people in need, such as www.bestforyou.org.uk and our confidential 24/7 text service.’
Best For You will make sure that it’s easy for children and young people to get the right kind of support, without long waits, in a way that suits them and their families. We’ve fast-tracked the digital side of Best For You because we know it’s important that every young person can access information and support.
The digital part of Best For You includes Shout’s dedicated text support service, which is free, confidential, and available 24/7. Anyone can text NATTER to 85258 to seek help, wherever they are in the UK.
Crucially, both Best For You and Shout are both there for every young person, whatever’s going on for them. Young people do not need to reach a certain ‘threshold’ or meet any criteria to access the Best For You platform or app library or use Shout’s NATTER text service.
This Children’s Mental Health Week, we want to highlight the support that is available to children and young people through Shout and Best For You – but everyone has a part to play in tackling this mental health crisis.
We need you to share information about Best For You and Shout, to make sure that we reach more young people who are struggling with their mental health and wellbeing.
Illustration by Maxene Brown
* Please note: In 2020, Shout was included in the Google OneBox, meaning that when people search for terms relating to ‘suicide’, Shout is displayed in a prominent box. This could have played a part in leading to an increase in children and young people texting Shout in relation to suicide and self-harm.
** Not their real name