By Victoria Scrivens-Smith, AcSEED Volunteer
We traditionally think of mental health and wellbeing support in schools and colleges as being focused on in-house resources and/or face-to-face provisions.
However there are an increasing number of on-line resources that can be both valuable and complementary.
Kooth (www.kooth.com) is an on-line Mental Health support platform that has been adopted by a number of AcSEED accredited organisations.
AcSEED volunteer Victoria Scrivens-Smith talked to the wellbeing co-ordinator at Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College, Niamh McManus, about their experiences with Kooth.
Niamh told us that Kooth became a part of the college’s wellbeing provision after hearing about the availability of on-line counselling services at assemblies run for
schools in the Trafford Borough area. “This was right for our pupils who have access to the help Kooth can offer outside of term time and we felt it was important for
our pupils to know the support services which existed.”
AcSEED: What response have you seen in students that are receiving support from Kooth?
Niamh: Pupils who took part in the Kooth workshops enjoyed these and it had allowed the groups of boys to talk openly about male mental health and wellbeing.
From my perspective of being in these workshops they were very thought provoking and allowed boys who would not usually share their feelings to do so in a safe environment.
AcSEED: Do you have any numbers of how many students take up the support from Kooth either through direct referral from school or through students’ self-referring?
Niamh: Due to the nature of Kooth we do not know which pupils have access to this as they set up their own usernames and passwords to be able to use this. I have
worked with groups in workshops with Kooth in which these pupils all logged on to the Kooth website and gave their feedback on the website and how to make this more accessible to young people.
AcSEED: What have you found are the benefits of having an online counselling service available?
Niamh: Pupils of all year groups are made aware of this - this is advertised in their form rooms -
this is to allow pupils who wish to access the service to make the decision to do this.
AcSEED: How do you think the importance of online counselling being available to students during the holiday period is, do you see this as a key factor in deciding to use them?
Niamh: It is very important for pupils and their parents to know where to access information and support outside of school time.
AcSEED: Do you have any advice or suggestions for other schools and colleges considering the use of on-line counselling services?
Niamh: Kooth operate in different areas but they are really useful in providing workshops and assemblies. I would definitely recommend getting in touch with them.
It is clear that Kooth has provided a useful addition to the wellbeing toolbox at Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College.
The young people that founded AcSEED were very conscious of the need for pupils to have multiple options to reach out for help and support.
Whilst in-school and in-person provisions will continue to be highly important, on-line services such as Kooth also look to have a useful role to play.
When a school/college decides to adopt an on-line mental health and wellbeing service, it is useful to consider how it will integrate and contribute to their overall wellbeing provision:
How would on-line counselling services co-exist with more traditional face-to-face counselling provisions?
How would the continuity of support be impacted by using on-line services as an out-of-term provision to complement in-house provisions?
How will the quality and value of the on-line service be monitored? This could potentially be done by an external authority, however the school/college might find value from receiving some key metrics from the service (assuming this can be done whilst also protecting individual privacy):
Number/percentage of pupils accessing the service.
Year group (age) profile.
Gender and minority group profiles.
Support needs profile, particularly to identify any peaks or trends in specific wellbeing difficulties.
This type of data would enable schools and colleges to assess the potential need for alternative and/or additional mental health and wellbeing provisions.
We would like to thank Niamh McManus for her valuable insight on experiences of using Kooth at Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College.
If you have experience of using Kooth (or other on-line wellbeing services) as part of your school/college mental health and wellbeing provisions,
do please let us know. We are happy to publish further feedback on the use of these service so that others can benefit from your practical experiences.
Write to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
More information on Kooth at: www.kooth.com