The advent of Covid-19 has had a major impact on the mental health of people of all ages; but none more so than young people. A recent survey by Young Minds found 67% believed that the pandemic will have a long-term negative effect on their mental health.
Last October, Somerset CCG working in partnership with Somerset Council, CAMHS and Young Somerset piloted the MeeToo mental health app for 11- 18-year-olds across the following Somerset postcodes BA20, BA21, BA22, BA6, TA1, TA2, TA3, TA6, TA7, TA10, TA18 which will continue to operate during the school holidays.
The MeeToo App supports the mental health and emotional well-being of children and young people in Somerset, through pre-moderated peer support, where young people can safely talk about difficult issues including relationships, friends, college, anxiety, appearance, exams, break ups, Covid and learn how to help themselves by helping each other.
Since the portal was launched in Somerset in October last year, 161 young people have accessed help through the app with the most popular topics being discussed including relationships, friendships and anxiety.
The pilot was commissioned by Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (SCCG) working in partnership with Somerset Council, CAMHS and Young Somerset and eight Somerset schools and pupil referral units; Stanchester School, Huish Episcopi, TOR School PRU, Taunton Deane PRU, Somerset Partnership School PRU, Wadham School, the Bridge School PRU and Chilton Trinity School
These schools and pupil referral units have created their own bespoke information portals for their students aged 11-18, including a directory of services which provide low level mental health and emotional wellbeing support for issues such as anxiety or low mood.
The portal also enables young people to connect directly to the support services offered via Somerset CCG including Young Somerset, KOOTH, 2BU, Mindline, ChatHealth and LifeBeat.
Since the pilot began, the schools have shared positive feedback from students and staff. A full evaluation will be undertaken at the end of December 2021, with the aim being to roll out the initiative to all schools in Somerset.
Dr Theresa Foxton, GP clinical lead for children’s and young adult’s mental health at Somerset CCG says: –
“Peer support has been shown to improve quality of life, well-being, social networks, self-esteem and social functioning, and has also led to reductions in hospital admission rates and use of hospital emergency services. It can be helpful on its own, or can be tried alongside treatments, like talking therapies or medication.
“It can also be a helpful way of getting support if you are on a waiting list for one of these treatments. I am a big advocate of this approach to delivering care and support for children and young people.”
“We welcome seeing the results of the evaluation in December to see if we might roll out this service across Somerset, as part of a wider range of support we offer children and young people experiencing difficulties with their mental health through CAMHS, Young Somerset and other services. “
One of the young people using the app commented: “I had depression and I didn’t have any help. I did talk to a councillor, but only for my anxiety, I never spoke about anything else. After 6 months I don’t feel depressed anymore. I don’t understand how that’s possible for it just to go? I feel absolutely fine”
Children and young people throughout Somerset can also access mental health support via Young Somerset, KOOTH, 2BU, Mindline, ChatHealth and LifeBe for children and young people not attending the pilot schools.
Outside the pilot area, anyone aged 11 to 25 in Somerset can access the MeeToo app and get support. The difference for those accessing support outside of the pilot areas is that they wouldn’t be able to get access through additional support through bespoke portals on the app tailored to their school or pupil referral unit).