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London teens to get preventative mental health support through digital therapeutic app

From today, Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing and Hounslow Mind will provide mental health app Wysa to 13-18 year olds attending its state school network whose needs are assessed to be suitable for virtual support. The West London based Local Mind Association intends to offer Wysa as a preventative tool and to encourage more young people who need help to come forward.

By offering Wysa Premium, HFEH Mind will support young people with proactive mental health support through 24/7 access to interactive, AI-guided, mental health support through Wysa.

How it will work:

  • All 13-18 year olds in the HFEH Mind school network will be invited to complete a request form on the HFEH Mind website

  • HFEH Mind will confirm parental consent where required under standard procedure

  • HFEH Mind will take the teenagers through a standard assessment to confirm if the virtual tool is suitable for the child’s mental health needs

  • The questionnaires will be logged on IAPTUS electronic patient records

  • Children with mild (subclinical) support needs will receive an SMS from the patient record system with a link to access for free Premium Wysa for a year (worth £69.99)

  • Children identified as having mild to moderate symptoms will gain access to Wysa in addition to being offered the usual pathways for HFEH Mind talking therapy support.

Once activated, Wysa will provide instant support through an AI chatbot that guides users through interactive self-care exercises. Wysa’s NHS-approved self-care library offers a wealth of evidence-based intervention exercises for stress, grief, insomnia, coping with pain, anger and self-esteem and more.

The app will run Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) questionnaires to monitor and report progress on a regular basis.  These questionnaires will be integrated with electronic patient records on IAPTUS with alerts for high risk triggers.

Nana Owusu, Clinical Lead and Director of Children and Young Peoples Services, HFEH Mind said: “We wanted to give teenagers something to help them with their everyday mental health that is convenient, discrete, and feels familiar. Teens are willing to embrace mobile apps and texting is part of everyday life, so we are meeting them on their level with this kind of interactive digital support. Self-help needs to be interactive, engaging and even enjoyable, to encourage teenagers to build their mental resilience and help prevent the onset or deterioration of any diagnosed mental illness. The appeal of this app also means we can tap into teenagers’ preferences for communicating. We hope it will mean we can discover more teenagers who need the higher level of support that is available to them. With so many apps out there, parents can be reassured that their children are safe and supported through a tool that is clinically validated.”

Wysa Managing Director Ross O’Brien, who previously worked on digital innovation within the NHS, added: “Wysa makes it easier for young people to access the vital mental health support they need, when they need it. Young people shouldn’t have to wait until they are very unwell to receive treatment or support. So whether they need one to one therapeutic support, wellbeing resources, immediate and ongoing support and information, or on-demand exercises to help their mental health – Wysa will be with them every step of the way.”

Aaron Cosgrove, Deputy Headmaster, Head of Lower School & Designated Safeguarding Lead at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, said: “It’s encouraging to know that our children will be able to access mental health and wellbeing support as and when they need it, in a safe way, and that any worrying triggers will alert local mental health support services. Parents and teachers worry about the advice that pupils are receiving on social media, and the echo chambers created in closed peer networks. The teenage years can be very challenging, and the more we can support our pupils to be mentally healthy, in ways that feel comfortable for them, the better. Wysa is likely to appeal to our students, yet provides a safe and clinically robust tool, built-in to our local mental health support groups, so we are looking forward to seeing how this changes things.”

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