An online counselling service has been set up across south east London to help young people facing mental health issues.
Called Kooth, it’s been operating in Lewisham since 2017. Now it’s being expanded to cover five more boroughs: Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich, Lambeth and Southwark.
Kooth is free and confidential, connecting 11-18 year olds to trained counsellors in an effort to overcome typical obstacles to seeking help, such as long waiting lists and costs.
Aaron Sefi of XenZone, Kooth’s commissioning body, said:“Young people develop strong healthy relationships with counsellors in Kooth.”
He praised the way the service breaks typical barriers associated with seeking help, adding: “It is crucial that Kooth is free at point of entry to enable all young people who need it to be able to access mental health services.”
One young user of the service related how they had been helped. “I have struggled with my confidence for a very long time and have often thought there was no way round it. [Kooth] have really helped me through a lot and over time, helped me develop the confidence to make new friends and stand up to bullies.”
A report by the House of Commons Public Affairs Committee (PAC) published last month revealed that long NHS waiting lists meant many young people were not getting crucial help. Only three in ten children with a mental health condition had received NHS-funded treatment.
PAC chairperson Meg Hillier MP says: “Children and young people with mental health conditions are being failed by the NHS. Provision is far below required levels and many people who do get help face long waits for treatment.
“This can be devastating for people’s life chances; their physical health, education and work prospects.”
Kooth looks to be filling a much needed gap, according to XenZone, with 1,700 log-ins from children and young people every day last year, a 72% rise on the previous year.
Figures show that in 2018 over 335,000 messages were sent to counsellors and wellbeing practitioners, almost double the number from the previous year.
Martin Wilkinson of NHS Lewisham CCG said: “Young people’s mental health is a priority for the NHS and I am delighted that, during children’s mental health week, Kooth was launched across all of the south east London boroughs.”