Innovate UK to fund MeeToo and the Anna Freud Centre to develop and evaluate digital peer support as a scalable solution in wake of the coronavirus pandemic
The Anna Freud Centre and MeeToo have been jointly awarded £300,000 from Innovate UK, the UK's innovation agency, to develop and evaluate a peer support app for young people that provides early intervention for those struggling with issues surrounding mental health.
On the app, users can post anonymously about anything troubling them, and receive replies and support from other users within their age group. All posts and replies are checked by moderators before they go live, and in-house counsellors provide extra support if it is needed.
The nine-month project seeks to assess the impact of early intervention as a way of supporting children and young people, before their difficulties escalate. It will build data analytic tools to boost the access which young people have to support options, any time and anywhere, via the MeeToo app. The research involves 10 schools, with a potential pool of up to 14,000 young people participating in the project. Run in partnership with the Anna Freud Centre and Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, it will ensure that MeeToo is equipped to play a leading role in the post-pandemic recovery.
Julian Edbrooke-Childs, Head of Digital Development and Evaluation at the Anna Freud Centre, says: “Evidence of the impact of the pandemic on children and young people’s mental health is already emerging around the world, including increases in rates of stress, anxiety and depression. When it comes to supporting them, accessible and evidence-based approaches are vital. We are therefore delighted to be working with MeeToo to assess the impact and outcomes of the app, and to provide guidance to improve MeeToo’s data analytic and reporting tools.”
Suzi Godson, Co-CEO at MeeToo, says: “Since 20 March, the number of young people relying on the MeeToo mental help app has doubled. Posts indicating that a young person is at high risk (for example, those that mention recent abuse, self-harm, and severe feelings of hopelessness), and which might require expert input from one of our counsellors, have increased by 65%. On Sunday 22 March alone, there were an unprecedented 27 suicidal posts between 8.30am and 8pm. This level of need demonstrates an alarming rise in the number of young people who are struggling with their mental health. During and beyond the coronavirus pandemic, innovative and accessible methods of prevention, early intervention and service delivery - such as app-based approaches like MeeToo - will play a critical role in providing ongoing mental help and support for children and young people.”
This project aims to help to provide easily accessible, high quality, evidence-based mental health help for all young people. It has the potential to reduce the increasing pressure on school and university counsellors, and on children and young people’s mental health services, freeing up counsellors and clinicians to focus on those with greatest need. Data reporting tools developed with this project will also make it easier to share data with institutions to inform and improve their services.
For more information on the MeeToo app, visit www.meetoo.help