New services are being introduced across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland to support young people’s mental and emotional health and wellbeing.

The expansion coincides with a report, published by the National Children’s Bureau, which found that, nationally, a quarter of girls and nearly one in 10 boys show signs of depression at the age of 14 and that mental health services are struggling to meet demand.

The first of the new services in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland is already up and running and has been well-received. Kooth is an online counselling service which is free to use for young people aged 11 to 19, and up to age 24 for those with a learning disability. Between April and June 2017, 462 local young people accessed Kooth, with nine out of ten saying they would recommend the service to their friends.

Kooth offers self-help tools including a live forum, peer support groups and an online journal facility, which provides a space for day to day reflection on events and feelings. Young people can also access messaging and live, one-to-one chat with trained counsellors. Patients can self-refer to the service, by registering online with basic details, including the area they live in.

Following a successful trial period, Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), on behalf of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, has commissioned the Kooth service for a further three years, as part of the Future in Mind transformation programme to improve young people’s mental and emotional health and wellbeing.

Dr Tony Bentley, GP and Clinica Lead for children’s health at Leicester City CCG, said: “The Future in Mind plan was developed through extensive engagement with local children, young people and their families. They consistently told us that they would like to have an online counselling service, where they could easily access support with emotional problems, including cyber-bullying, peer pressure and academic stress.”

“We found that there was a clear need for services offering support at an early stage, to promote children’s resilience and prevent the development of more serious mental health concerns, and we are introducing a range of services to meet different levels of need.”

New services that are being put in place will include talking therapies for children needing more support than the online service can provide and a crisis and home treatment service, which will deliver short-term, intensive support at times of particular distress, to deal with a crisis situation quickly.  Children needing this service will have fast access and be seen within two to 24 hours. 

Work will also be carried out with schools, skilling up teachers and delivering sessions to children, to develop a culture of understanding and the ability to support students’ mental and emotional health and wellbeing.

These developments are examples of how the local health service is innovating to provide care that better meets patients’ needs, under the Sustainability and Transformation Partnership – Better Care Together.

Elaine Bousfield, Founder and Chair of XenZone, which provides the Kooth service, commented: “It’s a positive step for any child or young person to use Kooth if they need mental health support, no matter how big or small they feel their problem is. Early support, whether that’s for depression, anxiety, grief, self-harm or any other issue, means we stand a greater chance of preventing that person from experiencing escalating concerns later in life.”

During the three months from April to June 2017, 139 children and young people from Leicester city, 197 from Leicestershire and 126 from Rutland have accessed the Kooth service, receiving a total of 933 hours of counselling services.
 The majority of young people using Kooth are between 13-17 years’ old
 Anxiety/stress, friendships and family relationships are the top three presenting issues highlighted by young people,
 91% of young people said they would recommend Kooth to their friends and 96% said they plan on coming back to the service soon