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Mind's new text service

Thursday, 01 May 2014 Simon

Simon blogs about the Mind Infoline's new text service and how he was involved in setting it up.

I’ve just finished University and am waiting for my results of my degree in Computer Science. I’m really nervous, but I’m also really proud. It wasn’t long ago that I had abandoned the idea of ever finishing it.

It was during my third year (out of four) at Uni, when I was on a placement. My whole department were made redundant at the same time as I broke up with my then girlfriend.

Being suddenly unemployed, and single, I just started spending all my time obsessing over either my ex-girlfriend or about the fact that I had let my family down. I was so low that I didn’t return to Uni in October. I also started drinking to help me switch off. I could still pass my degree with 3 years instead of 4 but I just didn’t feel able to go back. I moved back home with my parents and started living like a hermit - baggy clothes, big beard, not eating or looking after myself properly at all. I felt like I was getting lower and lower. I felt such shame about not finishing my degree that it was all I could think about.

"It was then I would have found the text service most helpful. I was at my lowest point. I really couldn’t see any point in being alive."

Using the phone was just too difficult. It was so much effort to get myself together, to clear my throat, to remember what to say. I remember just lying face down on the bed thinking, “I need to talk to someone” but not being able to.

The first time I was referred to my community mental health team (CMHT), they had to call me 10 or 11 times before I could actually answer the phone. I even rang the Samaritans a few times, but I often wasn’t able to say anything when they picked up.

"I knew I needed to talk to someone, but when you’re depressed, you just can’t."

A text would have been so much easier. It gives you time, you can look over what you said before sending and make sure you’re happy with it and that you’ve said what you needed to.

My memory was so bad when I was depressed, I struggled to remember the beginning of a conversation. So it would have helped to be able to look back over previous texts too.

I want to emphasise, this isn’t how I normally am. My preference when I am well is always to talk on the phone.


Read about Mind's telephone helplines

Being in the focus group

I saw the opportunity to be in a focus group for Mind’s new text service and, since I generally feel ok about sharing my story with people, I applied.

I felt nervous when I got to Mind offices, but I had a chance to get to know the rest of the group before we started giving our feedback. Rachel, who was running the session, gave us all an issue to send a text about. For example I texted about having a panic attack. The text would then come up on a screen and we could all see how the text service would respond in real life.

There were hardly any that we didn’t ‘tweak’ at least a little. There were often things that might have been helpful over the phone, but just didn’t work in a text message. The team seemed grateful for our views on how the service would be run, and I know they took many of our ideas on board.

For example, they are going to always sign off their texts with a name where there’s space. We felt that this helped build trust and for people to realise there was a real person helping you and listening to you.

They’re also going to make sure that, as much as possible, people will be talking to the same person for a whole text conversation.

I’m a firm believer in the power of non-verbal communication, for example what you can tell about how someone’s feeling from the sound of their voice.

My hope is that people will get information through Mind’s text service without having to speak on the phone. But I also hope that many other people will find it helpful as a starting place, to establish the basics and build up the confidence to make that call to the Infoline.


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