Keeping young people healthy with a text

A text message support service has allowed local nurses to support up to 229 young people in Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale (HMR).

ChatHealth is confidential and secure text message advice service for 11 to 19 year olds, run by HMR School Nursing Service, part of Pennine Care.

ChatHealth

Between March 2016 and November 2017, the nurses received 229 messages from young people and responded with advice on 277 occasions.

Young people can text 0750 733 0382 with a concern or question on issues such as bullying, emotional health and wellbeing, sexual health, alcohol and drugs and general illnesses. They can also use it to book an appointment with a nurse.

The queries are picked up by a school nurse who will reply within one working day with discreet and confidential advice, or options for an appointment. All messages receive an automated reply, which provides advice about alternative support if their issue is urgent.

ChatHealth has been praised for significantly increasing the number of young people that can be reached, some of who might not have sought professional help otherwise.

Annie* is one of the young people who messaged ChatHealth for support with her anger issues, which were made worse by a recent relationship.

Annie explained that she often reacts badly to even the slightest of things, so a senior school nurse arranged a confidential meeting to talk about Annie’s home and school life, and other factors that may cause the anger issues.

The school nurse supported Annie to access the borough’s #Thrive emotional health and wellbeing service and provided some helpful techniques to deal with anger such as exercise, spending time with friends and listening to calming music.

Nicola Sharp is Pennine Care’s Professional Lead for School Nursing in HMR. She said: “ChatHealth allows young people to access direct support or signposting to other services via a quick text message service.

“This is especially important in the winter months when services are stretched, as young people can seek initial advice and support via text message.

“We encourage young people to use ChatHealth to seek help as early as possible, whether it’s around winter health, mental health or emotional wellbeing, sexual health, alcohol and drugs or bullying.

“If a young person feels embarrassed or uncomfortable coming to the nurse face-to-face, they can drop us a text and we can recommend the best course of action to stay well.”

For more information about the HMR School Nursing Service and ChatHealth, visit: www.penninecare.nhs.uk/hmrschoolnursing  

*Annie’s name has been changed to protect her anonymity