Digital mental health therapy programme launched to alleviate GCSE stress

The course can be completed online and is primarily designed to support students aged 14 years and older

A brand-new online mental health therapy programme has launched in the UK, designed to alleviate stress and anxiety associated with GCSE exams.

Developed in partnership with digital therapeutics provider SilverCloud and charity Northpoint Wellbeing, the launch of the programme is timely as the sector continues to grapple with an uncertain future. While the government initially scheduled the phased re-opening of school campuses on 1 June, plans were scrapped earlier this week meaning schools must continue to teach remotely until the end of term.

The digital mental health programme will be open to school clusters across the Leeds area, as well as the NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Calderdale. The programme is also set to be rolled out nationally to other NHS and education services.

The online treatment has been built on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and is set to serve young people age 14 years and over. However, it can be used for younger children if a professional assesses them as suitable. After a full year of fast-tracked development, the programme will help vulnerable youth make sense of these difficult times, as well as ease the uncertainty and confusion for Year 10 pupils preparing for their GCSEs.

Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health difficulties experienced by young people today with high rates of comorbidity. Estimates suggest that 1.3m UK children are experiencing mental health problems, while just 300,000 young people gain access to NHS services. This gap in service provision is something that technology can help to fill. Two hundred young people have already participated in the programme, with 90% appreciating the digital form of therapy and 84% citing it as helpful.

“In light of increasing demand and in line with national service transformation sparked by the Future in Mind report and subsequent green paper, we saw the potential for this type of intervention to be used for the benefit of young people in our Leeds schools services and our Calderdale CAMHS service,” says Helen McGlinchey, school services manager and strategic lead at Northpoint. “It enables young people to be offered choice about their treatment, and it is consistent with early intervention as the programme can be offered with minimal waits at the point of referral.”

This programme follows the launch of SilverCloud’s ‘Space from COVID-19’ digital support package; a resource that has been made available to all NHS Services at no cost.

Dr Lloyd Humphreys, head of Europe at SilverCloud, says: “Having changed the lives of nearly half a million people it was critically important for us to see how we could help young people manage their mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19 and beyond. There is so much uncertainty, worry and anxiety around the pandemic and its impact that digital therapy has an important role in increasing accessibility to evidence-based support. Being a complete mental health solution, it was essential that the programme could be accessed by schools, as well as mental health services, and we are delighted to be working with Northpoint Wellbeing as pioneers in this area.”

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