Kooth is an online digital platform that offers mental health and wellbeing support right across the UK
In Berkshire West it can be accessed for free by 11 to 18 year olds. It is jointly commissioned by Berkshire West CCG, Wokingham LA, West Berkshire LA and Brighter Futures for Children. Jenny Fennessy is the engagement lead for Kooth in Berkshire and works to raise awareness of the benefits for young people in the area. Below she gives us a comprehensive overview of the support available, including online parent information sessions in April and May.
The key message I want to give to young people about Kooth is that it is free, safe and anonymous and it offers support when they need it. When a young person logs on to Kooth they have a range of choices about how they can get support. They can talk to a professional, they can get peer support or they can use the self help elements. They have choice, and they are empowered to take charge of their mental health and wellbeing.
Space to share stories and start conversations
What I really love about Kooth is the opportunity for young people to express themselves – we encourage our users to co-create and share their lived experiences. We know this can be therapeutic to the writer but also to the reader. It’s so important to not feel alone and isolated and the sharing of stories is a really powerful tool. There is also a space on Kooth to start conversation threads on our forum boards. These can be serious or fun but the important thing is that it is young people supporting each other, offering advice and sharing ideas. Kooth pre-moderates everything thus reducing the fear of a negative backlash or trolling, that has happened so many young people online. It replaces this with a positive platform to share your voice, your experiences and your opinions.
Recording thoughts and feelings and setting goals
The other features I like are the ability to record thoughts and feelings in our online journal or to set goals – these simple tools are so useful and allow users to track their experiences and the progress. It can be really powerful to reflect on your feelings and record ‘what makes you feel good’ or ‘what’s causing you stress right now’ and see the changes overtime and getting support when you need it. Setting SMART goals is also a really simple way to take care of your wellbeing, doing small things everyday can lead to bigger outcomes in the future. It can also help you stay motivated and feel proud of the efforts your making towards something you want to achieve.
Kooth also offers psychoeducational materials that help young people understand complex issues in an easier format. The content team creates a range of articles that answer questions and provide information ; for example they talk about anxiety and stress, eating difficulties, relationships, friendships, LQBTQi , young men, and body image. The content is responsive to the needs of young people and reflects the reasons young people come to Kooth.
‘Chat now’ with a professional
Kooth offers instant access to speak to a professional – there are no waiting lists. From the moment you create your account you can ‘chat now’ with a professional. You might have a particular issue you want to share and get some advice or there may be something that needs to be explored over time. Either way the professionals are there to help you understand your needs and find the best solutions. We also have a messaging service where you can write to the team (similar to an email) letting them know what is going on for you, any worries you have or seeking some specific advice – for example, I am having issues sleeping, or I feel anxious, or I feel lonely. The team will get back to you and offer some ideas that can help or ask you some more questions to understand. All of which is aimed at understanding how they can best support you.
Don’t do it alone campaign
Kooth’s latest campaign is called the ‘Don’t do it alone’ campaign where we are working with social media influencers to get the message out to young people that there are some things you may choose to do alone but mental health should not be one of them. We want people to feel comfortable in talking about mental health and starting conversations.
Signposting to Kooth
Part of my work as an engagement lead is to work in the communities to help people understand the benefits to Kooth and to feel comfortable in starting conversations knowing that they can signpost the young person to Kooth for additional support. I work with schools, charities, sports clubs and health services to understand how Kooth can work alongside them to create extra capacity around wellbeing and mental health. I am currently facilitating virtual sessions for professionals and for young people and parents. We also have a range of promotional materials that I can share to clubs, organisations, schools to help them create awareness around Kooth.
Supporting young people through the pandemic
For me a positive aspect of working at Kooth is the opportunity to work in digital mental health and to be able to support so many young people across the country. It has been an incredibly difficult year with Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions, but being part of a digital company offering support and being able to continue to support during this time feels really positive. We have a really great research team at Kooth who produced regular data releases around the presenting issues and impact of Covid-19 restrictions on Young people. Over the last year, Kooth saw a significant increase in feelings of sadness and loneliness and eating difficulties among young people, so its really great to be part of a company that is providing support for young people. There are a lot of people at Kooth who are passionate about mental health and finding solutions to supporting young people.
Find out more
Online parent information sessions
Kooth is offering free online parent information sessions in April and May. These sessions are designed to help parents understand how Kooth can support their child with their mental health and wellbeing. The sessions are about an hour and include the Kooth Parents Presentation, a live tour of the site, and an opportunity for questions and answers. Registration links and zoom links for can be found below. They only ask for a first name, as email addresses are not required.