New digital mental health help in Manchester

Andy Burnham and Sir Richard Leese have announced an agreement for a new response on mental health to complement work already happening at a local level in Greater Manchester.

As a result of the added pressures caused by the coronavirus crisis, a range of digital services and online support have been launched for children and adults across Greater Manchester to minimise the need for people to attend GP surgeries or hospital.

New support being offered includes the launch of the SHOUT service today – a confidential 24/7 text service for people aged 16+, operated by trained crisis volunteers who will chat using text responses. Advice is available for anyone struggling with a host of issues, including: anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, abuse or assault, self-harm, bullying or relationship issues.

Other services that have been launched or will be launched include: ChatHealth – a secure and confidential text messaging service for children and young people which allows patients to easily and anonymously get in touch with a healthcare professional for advice and support; Kooth – an online counselling and emotional well-being platform for children and young people; BlueIce – an evidence-based app to help young people manage their emotions and reduce urges to self-harm; and SilverCloud – an online therapy programme for people aged 16+ proven to help with stress, anxiety, low-mood and depression.

Additionally, NHS staff will be supported through the Greater Manchester Resilience Hub, set up in response to the Manchester Arena Attack in 2017, which will provide additional support and consultation to those teams and organisations who are supporting the frontline key workers during the coronavirus crisis.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “This is a difficult time for everyone at the moment, but we will all get through it together. It’s important to look after your own health and wellbeing and take time to look out for the mental health of others. I’m conscious that lots of people need support to look after their mental health and as we enter weeks four, five, six and beyond of this coronavirus crisis and the limitations placed on our day-to-day lives, it’s going to become even more difficult for some people.

“We need to act together to combat social isolation and find ways for people to connect or interact. I would encourage everyone to keep in touch with their friends, families and neighbours via phone or video calls and to get in touch with any of the support services available. I also want to pass on my gratitude to the hard working staff and volunteers who have been working around the clock to develop the range of digital mental health services to help people who need it. It’s great to see so many people rise to the challenge to do what they can to support others.”

Sir Richard Leese, chair of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, added: “COVID-19, and the national measures being announced to delay the spread of the epidemic, will inevitably have a significant impact on both demand for and capacity to deliver support for people with mental health needs, a learning disability or autism.

“Lots of great work is being undertaken across the 10 boroughs, helping some of our most vulnerable. For example, the Spirit of Salford helpline, contact centre and digital platform was launched within 72 hours and has already had over 1,000 people get in touch. They are working to address people’s mental health and wellbeing and feelings of social isolation. Our overarching priority is to support mental health services to run as effectively as possible, ensuring that those seeking and needing mental health support and treatment receive this care. All mental health providers in Greater Manchester are trying to ensure as much continuity of care as possible."