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New online counselling service launches for Norfolk’s young people

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has commissioned a new online counselling and emotional wellbeing support service to help young people through the coronavirus pandemic.

Called Kooth, the free website offers 11 to 25-year-olds across Norfolk and Waveney access to online counselling delivered by qualified counsellors 365 days a year, either on a drop-in basis or through bookable chat sessions. It also gives young people the chance to benefit from peer support and a wide range of self-help materials, as well as contribute to moderated forums.

The platform is being rolled out in Norfolk and Waveney after proving a success in Suffolk, where it launched in October. Since then, it has been accessed 3,100 times, with 97% of users saying they would recommend it to a friend.

Young people can use Kooth to seek support or advice on any topic they wish, from managing their feelings during the pandemic or coping with exam stress or bullying to seeking help for an eating disorder, dealing with suicidal thoughts or handling sexual abuse. They can also track their mood with a goal tracker, as well as note their thoughts in an online journal.

Al Bailey, Children and Young People Transformation Manager with NSFT, said: “We are really pleased that we are now able to offer this additional resource to help young people across Norfolk and Waveney manage their feelings during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

“As a result of the outbreak, some young people are unable to access their usual support networks, while others may not feel comfortable talking to family members. Kooth gives them the opportunity to share their feelings confidentially with others or with a qualified counsellor so that they can receive the best support to help them deal with issues or worries.

“Young people often extremely comfortable with chatting online, so using this media is a fantastic way to engage with them, especially if they find more traditional ways of accessing services difficult.”

Expanding access to online wellbeing support has long been planned as part of Norfolk and Waveney’s CAMHS transformation, but NSFT accelerated the commissioning of Kooth in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Children, young people and families have worked closely with mental health commissioners and providers within the Norfolk and Waveney Health and Care Partnership to shape this vision, and have been at the forefront of helping to design the look and feel of online wellbeing services.

Kooth is accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and is delivered by digital mental health provider XenZone. There are no waiting lists or thresholds for young people to use the service, which has been commissioned across more than 140 NHS areas and is seeing increased demand during the coronavirus outbreak.

Dr Lynne Green, XenZone’s Chief Clinical Officer, said: “We're very pleased that NSFT is looking at new and innovative ways to support young people through this current crisis. We appreciate that many children and young people in Norfolk and surrounding areas may feel the need for an online community right now.

“Kooth will allow them to support each other through written content as well as live moderated discussions. We encourage any young person in the area to take advantage of that as well as the opportunity to speak to a qualified counsellor if they should need to.”

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