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Half a Million conversations in a pandemic report header image

When do people contact Shout?

Mental health issues do not discriminate by time of day or day of the week. Because we are a 24/7 service, Shout Volunteers take conversations around the clock, when most other helplines and services are closed.

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Many people who texted Shout were reaching out for support for the first time (around 45% of our texters each day were new to the service) and 55% of texters didn’t feel they had anyone else they could talk to. This rose to around two thirds of people at night, when other support services are unavailable and a person’s social support networks such as friends or family members were likely to be asleep. Of those who texted us, 87% told us they found the service helpful and 74% said they felt more calm.

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To respond to 24/7 demand, we now have teams on both sides of the world. We have recruited a growing bank of Clinical Supervisors, practitioners and volunteers in New Zealand, who, being typically 13 hours ahead, are able to help us provide round the clock support, in what is the middle of the night for our UK volunteers.

Testimonials

People text us when they feel lost and do not know where else to turn. They sometimes do not know what they need in that moment of crisis, they just know they need help, and that’s where we come in.

Charu, Shout Volunteer

In response to news events and social media signposts

From tragic news events to announcements about the pandemic, our busiest periods have been when there’s a major news story or announcement that affects large numbers of people in the UK.

Our busiest day on the platform during these 500,000 conversations was the 3rd November 2020, just after the second lockdown announcement. On that day we took 2,384 conversations, double the number that we see on an average day. Texters were twice as likely to talk to us about Covid-19, and 1 in 5 conversations mentioned lockdown.

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The busiest two weeks preceding lockdown came after the suicide of the TV presenter Caroline Flack on 15th February 2020. The devastating event triggered 3,000 more conversations than during the preceding two weeks, a 30% increase.

The tragic suicide of gamer Byron Bernstein led to a similar need. When his girlfriend broke the news of his death on social media on 2nd July 2020, the text number was shared across TikTok, leading to a 43% rise in conversations for the ten days following, compared to the preceding period.

We have seen large spikes in conversations where our number has been shared across social media platforms, often to provide support in the moment following a tragic event. 34% of Shout texters heard about us from social media, with Facebook and Instagram being the biggest drivers of conversations. Newer social platforms are bringing younger demographics to Shout too, with 33% of first-time texters who heard about us via TikTok aged 13 or under.

Following the lockdown announcement on October 31st, social media posts spread across Twitter, then Facebook and then Instagram leading to our busiest day on November 2nd.

Testimonials

I had my first shift a couple of days after the tragic death of Caroline Flack and the sheer volume of texters mentioning her by name was astonishing.

Liz, Shout Volunteer

In anticipation of events

We have regularly seen increased need for the service when people are worried about future events, an example being the release of A Level and GCSE exam results.


In 2019, we saw an almost tenfold increase in conversations that mentioned exam results, beginning on the day preceding both A Level and GCSE result publication. At this time, 1 in 5 conversations with texters aged 14-17 mentioned their results.

Those awaiting their A Level results were most likely to express concerns about uncertainty and a lack of control over their future, while GCSE students often told us they were worried about not doing well enough and disappointing themselves and others.

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In 2020, while we didn’t see a similar build up in anticipation of exams, students were texting us about anxiety in general. Indeed, from what our volunteers have told us about the types of conversations they took with students last year, many were feeling the heightened effects of the pandemic beyond the normal pressures of school.

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Testimonials

The conversations that have stuck with me the most are with texters from school and university who are fearful about exams. They aren’t coping well with the pressure, expectations and the workload. Many think they are a failure, have low self-esteem and are of the mindset that their life will be over if they don’t pass their exams. The pandemic has created huge challenges such as learning via online sessions, which has left many feeling extremely isolated and without support.

Phillippa, Shout Volunteer

Our Frontline

When the pandemic hit earlier this year, we knew the mental health impact this would have on the nation’s key workers. In order to provide support to the very people whose lives are dedicated to supporting others, we founded Our Frontline, a partnership between Shout 85258, Samaritans, Hospice UK and Mind, supported by The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Our Frontline offers round-the-clock one-to-one support, by call or text, from trained volunteers, plus resources, tips and ideas to help key workers look after their mental health.

On 21st May 2020 the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock made a public service announcement in which he mentioned that the Shout service was available for frontline workers. Within minutes we saw almost 100 people contacting the service, compared to an average of around 25 conversations at that time of day, a demand that was quickly met by more than 150 volunteers logging on to take conversations. This pointed towards an unmet need for in the moment support among frontline workers during what has been an incredibly challenging year for those protecting the nation.

In our 2,800 conversations with frontline workers the most common issues mentioned were anxiety/stress (mentioned in 55% of conversations) and Covid-19 (50%). Other issues arising in conversations were depression/sadness (23%), isolation/ loneliness (13%), relationships (13%) and suicide (11%).

From a texter feedback survey filled out by respondents, 91% of frontline texters said the service was helpful to them, and more than half (51%) told us they contacted Shout because they wanted to talk to someone who didn’t know them; they like the anonymity it offered.

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