A leading digital mental health platform has been commissioned by NHS Western Isles to support children and young people in the Outer Hebrides.

People aged between 11 and 25 can sign up to Kooth online confidentially by selecting ‘Na h-Eileanan siar’ (Western Isles) and setting up a personal account.  

The innovative platform supports NHS Western Isles Child and Adolescent Mental health services (CAMHs) by addressing mental health needs before they need to be escalated to the NHS.

The aim is to enable access to early intervention for mental health “as soon as it is needed”. On Kooth, youngsters will have 24-hour access to self-help materials as well as goal-setting and mood-tracking tools.  

By commissioning Kooth, the health board, in partnership with the Western Isles Council, is looking to ensure that all children and young people in the local authority area have “safe, confidential and timely and easy” access to digital emotional and wellbeing support.  

Once registered, users have immediate access to the portal – there are no waiting lists or thresholds to meet. 

Kooth, a British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) accredited service, offers users peer-to-peer support via pre-moderated discussions. As well as 24/7 access to curated, and pre-moderated, self-help content, including a magazine with wellbeing articles, personal experiences and tips from other young adults and the Kooth clinical team.  

In addition, the service includes access to one-on-one, anonymous counselling sessions with fully trained and qualified counsellors and emotional wellbeing practitioners. 

These resources are available between 12noon and 10pm on weekdays, and between 6pm until 10pm on weekends, 365 days a year. The service is available from any desktop, mobile or tablet device. 

Joan Tilley, NHS Western Isles CAMHs manager, said: “We are grateful for the commissioning of this service, given the heightened level of stress our children, young people and families are experiencing throughout this challenging time of the Covid pandemic and the impact of its subsequent measures on mental health and wellbeing.

“Kooth can allow an accessibility to services which can reassure our young people help is at hand when it is needed.”  

Dr Lynne Green, chief clinical officer at Kooth Plc, added: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on the mental health and wellbeing of young people, which means that easily accessible services that can assist children and young people with their mental health are needed now more than ever.

“Having access to a platform moderated by friendly and experienced emotional wellbeing practitioners can make all the difference to someone struggling with mental health issues. Kooth’s anonymous digital setting also helps break down barriers and unnecessary stigma often associated with getting mental health support. 

She added: “We encourage young people in the Outer Hebrides to make the most of the services available from the NHS Western Isles (NHS Eileanan Siar). Whether that’s joining the live discussion forms or reading through the library of articles or speaking to our team of qualified counsellors. At Kooth, we are on hand to support and listen as and when it is needed.” 

Working with colleagues in education, a number of information sessions have run for teachers and other support staff to ensure they are aware of what Kooth’s offerings.

Mary Clare Ferguson, senior education officer, Western Isles Council, said: “Since Kooth was launched in the Western Isles on the 3rd December, more than 50 young people have accessed the service!

“This resource, along with a wide range of other universal, whole school and family approaches and specialised, targeted approaches centred around prevention and early intervention to promote positive mental health and wellbeing, will be introduced over the next few years as we continue to develop our policies and practices to support mental health and wellbeing”.