Text messaging service offers students 24/7 mental health support

20 September 2022

Students starting university in Sussex this week can get free round-the-clock help with their mental health, thanks to a new digital service which has been launched locally.

Young people who are anxious, stressed, depressed or overwhelmed can text the word SUSSEX to 85258 to be connected to a trained volunteer for a real-time text-based conversation and immediate mental health support.

According to the mental health charity Mind, students are at a higher risk of developing mental health problems - with many people first experiencing mental health issues or first seeking help when they are at university. A recent survey* found that one in four students feel lonely all or most of the time. 

Thousands of young people will be moving to Sussex this week as the new university year gets underway - and for many this will be their first time living away from home.

Feeling homesick, lonely, struggling to make new friends, the pressures of assignment deadlines, exams and managing personal finances can all have an impact on a young person's mental health and wellbeing. Without their family and friend networks, students can easily feel isolated and not know where to turn for support. By texting SUSSEX to 85258, young people can get confidential advice at any time of the day or night.

Through a text-based conversation, the volunteers will listen to texters about the issues they are facing and help them reach a calmer place. If needed, they will be signposted to local mental health services to get continuous and longer-term support.

The initiative, which is being delivered through the national text messaging service Shout, is part of a wider programme, led by health and care partners in Sussex, to make it easier for people who live and work in the county to access services to get help with their mental health.

According to a report published by Shout, almost 30,000 students accessed the text messaging service nationally in 2021, with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts identified as the main concerns. More than half of the students who contacted the service sought help between the hours of 8pm and 2am, highlighting the need for the 24/7 service. 

Dr Claire Woolcock, Interim Chief Medical Director for the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We're delighted to partner with Shout to bring this service to Sussex and offer a digital solution which particularly serves the needs of young people."

"For students in particular who are navigating their way through the pressures of university life, having round the clock mental health support at their fingertips could be life-saving."

Find out about other ways you can get help with your mental health