A Shout volunteer explains the mental health support service and how demand has risen during the pandemic

A Lincolnshire-based volunteer for mental health text support service Shout 85258 tells us what it’s like to volunteer for the service, how it helps those who use it, how numbers have soared during the pandemic and more.

What service does Shout provide?

“Shout 85258 is a free, 24/7, confidential and anonymous mental health text support service. As an in the moment, de-escalation service, trained volunteers take a person who is struggling to cope in that hot moment, to a cooler, calmer and safer place through a texting journey.

“The service is free from all major mobile networks in the UK, and appears off-bill. The service is discreet, accessible and anonymous. The messages are confidential unless there is a concern about someone’s safety. If a texter is believed to be in imminent danger or a safeguarding issue is raised, the Clinical Supervisor (who monitors all conversations) may share the texter’s details with emergency services or appropriate authorities in order to keep them safe.”

Have you seen an increase in people using the service since the pandemic?

“It’s clear that the pandemic and its aftermath have had a huge impact on mental health, and that may well be enduring, particularly for the younger generation. In the most recent lockdowns, particularly in December and January, we saw conversation volumes greatly increase, with a staggering  5,174 conversations in our busiest 24-hour period  between 20th – 21st December. The conversation increases after the announcements were rapid and sustained and the volumes stayed high for several days afterwards.

“Pre-pandemic, we were taking an average of 750 conversations per day, but by January 2021 this had increased to around 1,400 per day.

“One of the key things about the Shout service, is due to it being a digital means of support, it has been able to continue operating as normal to provide in the moment help to people during the pandemic.”

What is the range of issues people are facing and are all issues valid reasons to get in touch?

“Issues people are facing are wide-ranging.  The main reasons people contact the service are suicidal thoughts (33% of all conversations), depression (33%), anxiety/stress (32%), relationships (27%), isolation/loneliness (18%) and self-harm (14%) among many others including gender identity, abuse, bullying and more.

“Any problem that is affecting someone’s mental health is a valid reason to get in touch and no matter is too small to open up to us about, we’re here to listen and support.”

What would you say to someone considering using this service or a similar support option?

“Shout volunteers are trained and empathetic people who listen to and support texters to help them reach a calmer and safer place. 

“Sometimes it’s easier to text than say the words out loud. The service is anonymous and confidential, you can share whatever you feel comfortable with and you can text from wherever you are without being overheard. If you’re feeling low or in need of support, just text SHOUT to 85258 to start a conversation to taking your first steps to feeling calmer.

“Clinical supervisors oversee all conversations and give real-time support to volunteers and texters.  Supervisors can escalate a texter to the emergency services or appropriate authorities to help keep them safe.”

Is it best for people who are unsure about making contact to do so and see how it goes?

“If someone is feeling they can’t cope or are struggling then making contact with Shout may just be the kind of support they need at that time.  A texter can end a conversation at any time by texting the word ‘STOP’.”

What do you hope people go away with after engaging with the service?

“We hope that a person will feel more calm than when they first text in, we hope people feel listened to in a non-judgemental way and that they have had an opportunity to express themselves. We also work with texters to form an action plan to taking their next steps to feeling better, whether that’s speaking to a family member or a friend, or seeking the mental health support they deserve.”

How long have you been volunteering with Shout? 

“I’ve been volunteering for almost 18 months.  The comprehensive online training takes 25 hours. You have a coach assigned to you and always have a supervisor on shift overseeing conversations while you are on duty.” 

Can you describe a typical night with the service – does such a thing exist? 

“A typical night is always busy with people wanting to access the service.  I tend to work in the early hours for a three-hour shift, twice a week.  I love that I can work from home from my own computer.  I’m not having to travel or use transport so that is very convenient for me.  I generally log onto the platform, engage with the supervisor and start taking conversations from texters.  There is always support if needed from the supervisor or fellow volunteers and we can engage with each other throughout the shift. On my shifts I speak to a number of texters and It’s wonderful, on occasion, to get some positive feedback via the optional feedback survey sent to texters after our conversation.”

How can people engage with the service?

“Simply texting SHOUT to 85258 gets you through to the service. You will receive four automated messages before you are put through to a volunteer who will listen to you and guide you to a calmer place.”

To read more about Shout, visit the website https://giveusashout.org/


If texting isn’t your preferred way to make contact, here are some other charities that provide support in a crisis.

Call Mental Health Matters on 0800 001 4331 – available 24/7

This organisation provides emotional support, guidance and advice to Lincolnshire residents registered with a GP.

MHM website

Every Mind Matters

This NHS website offers lots of advice and practical tips to help you look after your wellbeing.

www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters

Call CALM – Campaign Against Living Miserably – on 0800 585858 or webchat

This leading movement exists to change the current situation with male suicide. Helpline staff are available from 5pm to midnight.

www.thecalmzone.net

Call Samaritans on 116 123

Urgent support is always available from the Samaritans. 

www.samaritans.org

To find out more about volunteering in Lincolnshire, email HWLincs’ Volunteer Officer, Emma, to discuss the current opportunities available alongside our 40+ current volunteers.