The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge earlier this week had a video call with a family whose son was helped by the Shout 85258 mental health support service. The text message-based service Shout 85258 is a mental health support service launched in 2018. The 24/7text based service, Shout, aims to normalize talking about mental health at the earliest stage and to actively encourage help-seeking by children and young people. By providing mental health support through digital means, the service is working to break down the barriers people have to seek help, encouraging children and young people to reach out earlier in their lives, before mental health issues build up to the point of crisis.
The ongoing pandemic has impacted the mental health of millions of people and 12-year old Jack was one of them. Unbeknown to Jack’s loving and supportive parents, things had become so difficult for him that one evening he decided to end his life. It was while Jack was standing on a bridge that he sent Shout a text message that would help him to find the help he needed.
A charity that has the undying support of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge came out as a lifeline to little Jack when he was going through severe anxiety during the pandemic. Jack’s parents only knew how serious the situation was when the police contacted them to let them know that their son was safe.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge talked to Jack’s parents earlier this week and learned how the experience had impacted their family. They talked about the close and loving relationships they have with all of their children, their ability to talk and listen as a family about difficult things, and their busy and fun household. Yet despite this, they hadn’t realized the extent of the great distress their son Jack had found himself in during lockdown. Identity and the voices on the video recording have been changed to protect anonymity
“I can’t imagine honestly as parents ourselves, I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you and it’s every parent’s worst nightmare is receiving the call that you did on that night” – The Duchess of Cambridge
Jack’s parents noticed that their once open, gregarious, fun-loving, and inquisitive son had become more introverted during the Covid-19 lockdown of spring and summer 2020. Jack spent increasing amounts of time on his own, no longer connecting with his friends online or on the phone, and struggling with online school. Jack became increasingly anxious about the future, and whether life would ever get back to some sort of normality. His father described how there was no trigger point for Jack’s anxiety which made it harder to understand how bad things had become.
When Jack returned to school in Autumn 2020, his anxiety escalated. What Jack’s family didn’t know was that it had reached a dangerous level where the only solution he could see was to end his life. Jack’s parents explained how he had reached out to Shout in a pivotal moment, and, during a text conversation, a volunteer had been able to prevent Jack from ending his life.
“Shout has effectively bridge that gap between a point of crisis and despair and brought him back to give him a peace and calm for a time to just work things out and find that support” – The Duke of Cambridge
Prince William and Duchess Catherine talked to Jack about his experience and how much Shout UK helped him during his troubled time. Jack agreed with the Duke that having a conversation with Shout over text, rather than talking out loud, made it easier to be open about difficult emotions. He told The Duke and Duchess that more children and young people should learn about mental health, and learn how to talk to others about their feelings.
The statistics shared by the Shout UK are really unnerving and show how much life has suffered because of the COVID-19. Every week at Shout, a team of 2,400 volunteers and expert clinical supervisors across the UK and New Zealand are privileged and humbled to be able to make a positive difference in the lives of thousands of children and young people. 35% of our texters are under the age of 18, which might not seem surprising. But what often starts with people is that 7% of the people we have conversations with are children under the age of 13, like Jack. In fact, we’ve had around 45,000 conversations with children in this age bracket since we launched the Shout service and supported the mental health of around 18,000 children. The issues raised by children in their conversations range from bullying (9% of conversations), self-harm (24% of conversations), anxiety (28% of conversations), and suicide (31% of conversations). It is estimated that around 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24.
The ShoutUK was launched by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Sussex in May 2019. It allows people to open up a text chat with a volunteer working remotely, most likely at home, who has been trained to listen, reassure and guide people. At the time of launch, Prince William said, “As texting is private and silent, it opens up a whole new way to find help. You can have a conversation anywhere, at any time: at school, at home, anywhere.” About the service, the Duchess of Cambridge said: “It’s able to offer support when it is crucially needed and the opportunity to turn lives around. This really is an important step for those desperately in need.” And it has been absolutely true since its launch.
As digital natives, young people gravitate naturally to technology as a means of mental health support. Their phones are often close at hand and so they feel comfortable using text messaging as a way of reaching out and having a conversation about issues they might not feel so happy or be able to voice out loud, or face to face. Prince William himself was a volunteer for the service in 2020.
In the video call, The Duchess of Cambridge was wearing her Equipment Slim Signature Polka Dot Silk Shirt that she first wore in September 2019 for a visit to Sunshine House Children and Young People’s Health and Development Centre in London. The Duchess of Cambridge again wore the shirt one year ago in March 2020 during an Ireland visit. The Shirt is currently available at Equipment, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth.
Next, we will hear from the Royal couple on Sunday when they will join the Queen to celebrate Commonwealth day. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have spoken to medical, charity, and voluntary staff from across the Commonwealth to hear more about the work they have been carrying out to care for those within their communities. Throughout their conversations, the Duke and Duchess heard from those on the calls about what inspired them to support their communities, the impact of the vital work they are carrying out, and how they have adapted their efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.