The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex launch Shout

Published 9 May 2019

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have announced the launch of Shout, a new text messaging helpline that supports people in crisis.

Shout operates 24/7 and connects people in need to trained volunteers who provide help at a time when it is most needed; enabling them to move from a moment of crisis to a calm state and form a plan for next steps to find longer-term support. As texting is private and silent, it opens up a whole new way to find help.  It provides instant support - you can have a conversation at any time – at school, at home, on the bus, anywhere. This service is for everyone, but for younger people especially, texting is a trusted and familiar form of communication, and using text rather than apps makes it simple and accessible for everyone with a phone.

Shout is powered by a team of volunteers who are at the heart of the service. They are trained to create a safe space for people experiencing mental health challenges. The programme is unique with the training and volunteering all done online, under the supervision of qualified clinicians. Working remotely, volunteers are part of a supportive and connected online community of 1,000, with the ambition of boosting that community to 4,000 by the end of the year.

In a video The Duke of Cambridge launched an appeal for people to apply as volunteers. Applicants should be over 18, have access to a computer and secure internet connection and be able to commit to 25 hours initial training and make an ongoing commitment to volunteer two to four hours each week. 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex said: “We are incredibly excited to be launching this service, knowing it has the potential to reach thousands of vulnerable people every day. Over the last few months Shout has started working quietly behind the scenes. We have all been able to see the service working up close and are so excited for its future. 

“At the heart of this service will be an incredible national volunteer community, one which needs to grow to allow us to support more people in crisis. We hope that many more of you will join us and be part of something very special.”  

Victoria Hornby, Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Innovations, said: “The Heads Together campaign highlighted the desire for greater openness around mental health. We know that tools are needed to have conversations about mental health and to support people in times of crisis. At Shout, we are using technology to provide a safe space for anyone who needs it to have conversations wherever they are and whenever they need someone to talk to. We also want to make it easier for people to volunteer, to ensure this service can continue to grow and reach those who need it. Through conversations with our charity partners, the sector agrees that demand for help and advice is growing as the urgent crisis in mental health continues in the UK. The success of Crisis Text Line in the US speaks for itself and we hope that it will prove equally beneficial to the mental health support services sector in the UK. ”

The launch of Shout in the UK is a result of the commitment made by Their Royal Highnesses during their Heads Together campaign to support conversations on mental health. Shout was researched and developed within Their Royal Highnesses charity The Royal Foundation, which initiated conversations with Crisis Text Line in the US about bringing this proven model to the UK.  This is the biggest initiative of The Royal Foundation to date and led to Mental Health Innovations (MHI) being established in October 2017 with a £3 million grant. MHI is the first charity dedicated to digital innovation to support mental health and will develop emerging technology for the sector. 

Lorraine Heggessey, CEO of The Royal Foundation said: “Our unique model and the influence of Their Royal Highnesses has enabled us to develop this innovative solution to tackle one of today’s biggest challenges – the increasing number of people needing mental health support.  The pilot stages have demonstrated the huge need for this service and the potential impact it can have. We wish all the volunteers and everyone in the Shout team every success as they build this pioneering project.”

Crisis Text Line has been operating in the US since August 2013, and has processed over 100 million messages since inception. It’s founder and CEO Nancy Lublin sits on the board of Shout Crisis Text Line in the UK.

Nancy Lublin, Founder and CEO Crisis Text Line, said: “We are proud of the work Crisis Text Line and our Crisis Counselors has done in the United States to ease the pain of Americans. If other world leaders will follow the lead of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, together, we can end this epidemic of emotional crisis.” 

MHI has committed to providing the support of Shout to a wide range of mental health charities to increase the capacity and the efficiency of the sector. Working with charity partners over the past year, Shout has already supported more than 60,000 conversations in its first year. The first charity to partner with Shout to deliver the service to its users was The Mix, the UK’s leading support service for young people. 

Chris Martin, Chief Executive Officer, The Mix, said: “As the UK's only wholly digital support service for young people we know just how important it is to provide help in the online spaces that young people turn to first. By working with Mental Health Innovations and Crisis Text Line we are proud to have helped to launch this innovative, volunteer led service to UK, ensuring young people have the lifesaving opportunity to get immediate crisis support through The Mix. Crisis Messenger massively compliments our early intervention approach through digital and – by engaging with young people at scale - offers us the opportunity to gain insight some of the drivers behind poor mental health."

MHI has partnered with the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London to develop insights into mental health and to enable us to collaboratively build the next generations of digital tools and products for mental health. The service will provide unparalleled, up to date information for academics, clinicians and the mental health sector more generally.

Professor The Lord Darzi of Denham, Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London, said : “There is a growing UK mental health crisis, with soaring demand outstripping the capacity of traditional sources of help. At the same time, the rapid growth of digital innovations in health is opening up a host of new opportunities to respond. The exciting partnership between the Institute of Global Health Innovation and Mental Health Innovations provides a unique opportunity to identify trends and harness the power of these digital tools to help shape the provision of these critical services.”

BBC Children in Need have been a core founding donor as part of A Million & Me, a new £10m three-year programme that will focus on children’s mental health. We are also grateful for the support of The Mohn Westlake Foundation.

For information about Shout, and volunteering opportunities please visit www.giveusashout.org