Thousands in Greater Manchester benefit from free online support for their mental health during COVID-19 pandemic

Teen girl using tablet

Thousands of people across Greater Manchester are being supported by new digital and online services as part of city-region response to mental health during COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected citizens across Greater Manchester with people reporting mental health issues caused by loneliness, isolation and personal circumstances.

Greater Manchester quickly recognised a need to offer support to residents with mental health issues such as anxiety, low-mood or stress and a range of digital support services were quickly identified and rolled-out in April 2020. These would allow adults, children and young people to access support at home and minimise the need for people to attend GP surgeries or hospital. Ahead of World Mental Health Day on Saturday 10 October, Greater Manchester is reminding residents of the services available to support them.

Services rolled out across GM include:

  • SHOUT – a confidential 24/7 text service operated by trained crisis volunteers who will chat using text responses. Advice is available for anyone struggling: anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, abuse or assault, self-harm, bullying or relationship issues
  • Kooth – an online counselling and emotional wellbeing platform for children and young people
  • SilverCloud – an online therapy programme for adults proven to help with stress, anxiety, low-mood and depression

The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership are working with Health Innovation Manchester to review the outcomes of the digital services and plan for the future of mental health support following COVID-19.

In the first three months since launching across Greater Manchester, the Kooth online counselling and wellbeing platform was accessed by 4,300 children and young people of which 65% were new users. This has resulted in over 11,700 messages on the platform and almost 6,000 article views. Overall 95% of users said they would recommend Kooth and 84% said they felt heard.

Feedback from one user included the comment: “I feel so much more positive about myself now. I feel like a different person. I feel supported and valued and as a result I’m making changes in my life.”

Adults in Greater Manchester have also been supported through new digital mental health services. Since April 2020, 1,013 people have accessed SilverCloud’s online self-help mental health support, including programmes for stress, anxiety, low-mood and depression, have been accessed. On average more than 90% of users found the modules to be interesting, relevant, helpful or supportive.

Similarly, 136 conversations have taken place on the free crisis text messaging service SHOUT 24/7 using the GM keyword. The service allows residents to have a confidential text chat with a trained crisis volunteer about issues including anxiety, depression, loneliness, relationship issues or self-harm. A user satisfaction survey shows that 96% of respondents found the conversation to be useful. It is expected that many more people across the region may have accessed the service without using a GM keyword or using a nationally-promoted keyword.

One user said: “I really appreciate all the help offered. It was nice to be able to tell someone what happened to me without feeling ashamed of it.”

Another said: “Thank you again for your time. It was nice to talk to somebody so understanding and who took the time to listen and acknowledge.”

Dr Sandeep Ranote, Medical Executive Lead for Mental Health, Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Radically improving the mental health and wellbeing of the people of Greater Manchester has always been one of our top priorities. We want to see mental health put on an equal footing with physical health. The outbreak of COVID-19 dramatically impacted on many people’s mental health, creating extra stress and anxiety for both those with pre-existing issues and those struggling to cope during the pandemic.

“During this period, the mental health support offered online has been greatly expanded – building on existing services at an exceptional pace. The number of people who have used these services, along with the feedback we’ve received, illustrate just how vital digital support is. The work undertaken during the pandemic has created a legacy that will allow us to build on the digital support that is helping people stay well and reducing the need for them to attend GP practices or hospitals.

“All support is free to use and easy to access, though we understand not everyone has the skills or technology to benefit. We are continuing to work with partners to close this digital inequality gap.”

Amanda Risino, Chief Operating Officer at Health Innovation Manchester, the organisation responsible for accelerating proven innovations into Greater Manchester’s health and care system, said: “COVID-19 has inevitably presented challenges for health and care services across the city-region, including mental health and wellbeing services. It has been vital to support these services and those needing mental health and support during this time and these digital innovations are proving that they can have a positive impact on the wellbeing of our citizens.”

Health Innovation Manchester will continue to monitor the use and outcomes of the new digital mental health innovations and assess their benefits during COVID-19.

A snapshot review to help Greater Manchester plan for the future within mental health services has been completed. Information was captured from across the GM system, including mental health provider Trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups, local authorities, social care, charities, communities and people who use the services.

The review found:

  • There is a need to take preventative and proactive approach to support those with mental health issues who do not access mental health services
  • Organisations and communities have continued to work well together in response to COVID-19 and there is a desire to retain this
  • Innovation has been accelerated and how to continue the best new services and ideas needs to be considered

The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging and planning has been focused on the emerging needs of our local population. The early impact of the digital services and snapshot review are now influencing the planning across Greater Manchester in a variety of settings in order to prepare for the future mental health requirements within Greater Manchester, during a potential second wave of COVID-19 and once the pandemic has passed.

Find out more about the digital mental health service and how to access support on the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership Website

Back to top