Yo Help! – Innovating Access to Mental Health Care for Young People

My Time CIC, Birmingham-based provider of evidence-based culturally sensitive counselling and support services, has launched Yo Help!.  An innovative smartphone app, created by young people for young people Yo Help! will help them cope with emotional distress and so build their resilience and ultimately play a part in reversing the escalation of mental ill health amongst young people. 

One in ten young people (under 15)[1] has a mental health disorder and the rates increase as they reach adolescence[2].  Furthermore, the proportion of young people suffering depression and anxiety is on the rise; the rate has increased by 70% over the past 25 years[2].  The problem is significant, particularly since 50-60% of adults diagnosed with a mental health disorder received a mental health diagnosis of some kind before the age of 15[2].  But My Time’s own research conducted on behalf of Sandwell Council has shown that for many young people traditional mental health services are alien.  

“The young people told us they felt that counsellors who are much older can’t empathise with their issues,” said Michael Lilley, founder of My Time CIC.  “Instead they wanted access to mental health support through a route that was more natural to them.  They felt an App used instead of or in addition to normal counseling services could be a good solution.”

Studies show there are a number of trigger’s for young people’s depression including bullying, cyber bullying, body image and relationship breakdown.  Yo Help! is an interactive tool that helps tackle these underlying issues by informing and empowering the young people who use it.  With videos from real people talking about their life experiences Yo Help! comprises five key areas: Mood Metre, Sleep Assistant, Relationships, Bullying and Help me Now.  

Using the Mood Metre young people can express their emotion at the same time as learning about their own triggers for the emotion.  Yo Help! will help them get an insight into why they feel as they do and information on how to manage the emotion.  They will also be able to look back at past experiences and be prompted about strategies they have used in the past that proved effective.  

Lack of sleep can be both a symptom and a cause of distress.  Focusing specifically on the needs of young people the Sleep Assistant allows users to rate and record their sleep and gives advice on how to get to sleep.  This includes a sleep hygiene plan, involving the set up of the room and the dumping of thoughts before bed, and sounds selected for facilitating sleep. 

Relationships can be challenging for young people.  This unit is designed to help them develop the skills they need to cope with, for example, arguments, being attracted to another and bereavement.  

Bullying, whether in the playground or in cyber space, can be devastating for those affected, undermining their self esteem and future relationships.  Yo Help! provides information and outlines coping strategies.

Help me Now is designed for the occasions when a young person is feeling extreme distress and having suicidal thoughts or struggling with self harm.  Coping with feelings this intense is difficult.  Yo Help! offers strategies and access to dedicated support lines including ChildLine and the Samaritans.

Yo Help! was funded by Big Issue Invest and NHS Creative England and developed by RNF Digital Innovation Limited.

[1] The Office for National Statistics Mental health in children and young people in Great Britain, 2005

[2] The Fundamental Facts, Mental Health Foundation

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