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Half a million conversations through a pandemic: the power of text for providing 24/7 digital mental health support

Our first ever Shout 85258 report looks into the unique mental health data insights we’ve taken from 500,000 text conversations with people across the UK.

We reached this milestone conversation number in November 2020. Since then we have been analysing our data insights and speaking to our clinicians and volunteers about their experiences with texters on the platform, to understand and identify the key trends and insights we’ve seen through people texting Shout.

This landmark report, “Half a million conversations: the power of text for providing 24/7 digital mental health support” looks into why text is such a powerful medium for seeking mental health support, who is using the Shout service, and when people are most likely to reach out for support.

Download the report
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We are very grateful to all of our supporters featured in the report (page 28), for helping us help others when they are in need of immediate support.

With special thanks to our founding partners:

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  • MohnWestlake_Logo.zip

Key findings

Among our key findings, we have identified the following insights:

  • How text messaging provides a new and discreet way for those in need of mental health support to reach out for help. This early intervention is particularly important both around the clock, when other services and helplines are not available, and in times of lockdown, when face to face support cannot be accessed
  • A large proportion of people who contacted Shout 85258 were reaching out for mental health support for the first time, with 38% having never spoken to anyone else, and 55% feeling they didn’t have anyone else they could talk to
  • The main reason people contacted Shout was for suicidal thoughts (34% of conversations)
  • 65% of our texters were aged under 25 and 7% are aged 13 or under showing the importance of text support for a digitally native demographic
  • 80% of Shout texters identified as female, in line with patterns in society reflecting both mental health need and a willingness to seek support among this gender
  • Women were also twice as likely to mention eating disorders and body image than men and discussed self-harm in nearly 1 in 4 conversations
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  • We also see particular demographics, including autistic people (7% of our texters) and the LGBTQ+ community (35% of our texters) overrepresented in Shout usage
  • Our busiest times on the platform have been in response to news events, in conjunction with social media signposts, highlighting an in the moment demand for mental health support
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly taken a toll on mental health and this, combined with increased awareness of the Shout service, has led to a huge increase in conversations. Before the virus struck the UK in early 2020 we were seeing around 750 conversations a day. This rose to an average of 1,400 conversations per day in early 2021
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