News 28 November

Over 280 Children and Young People Identify as Agender or Gender Fluid on Online Counselling Site Kooth

New report finds 1% of Kooth online counselling registrants are agender or gender fluid, compared to 0.02% which have a gender listed as ‘other’ in NHS Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

A report published today by Education Policy Institute (EPI) shows over 280 users of Kooth online counselling, a service for children and young people provided by online and face to face counselling pioneers XenZone, identifying as agender or gender fluid. This compares to 0.02% of those in NHS Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services, who have a gender listed as ‘other’. According to the report: “This could potentially indicate that young people are more willing to be open about their gender fluidity due to the anonymous nature of online [counselling] provision.”

As the Government prepares to publish its green paper on children’s mental health, data from Kooth provides a real insight into how children and young people are using the service:

  • BAME: Compared to the general population of the local authority areas where it is commissioned, Kooth attracts a higher proportion of people from different ethnic backgrounds (17.6% compared to 10%)
  • Presenting Issues: The most common reason cited for young people accessing Kooth was stress and anxiety. Other issues included problems around friendships or family relationships, bullying, self-harm and lack of self-worth
  • Sessions: Kooth is often used for short-term support, but is also used for children and young people with long-term care needs. 7.8% have more than six live chat sessions with counsellors and 7% exchange over 20 messages with therapists, showing that young people are committed to getting help
  • Out of hours support: Seven out of ten log-ins were outside the traditional working week (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday), indicating that young people want to access mental health support outside clinic opening times, posing challenges for the way in which traditional services are currently structured
  • Gender
     – Boys are more likely to use the service at a young age than girls (8.5% of boys using Kooth were aged 11, compared to 4.6% of girls)
     – 71% of Kooth clients are female, compared to 52% of CAMHS clients
  • Age
     – The median age of a Kooth client is 15, reflecting the pattern of emergence of mental health problems in young people aged between 14 and 17
     – Nearly one in five (18%) of new registrations in 2016/17 were for those aged between 10 and 12, showing that online counselling and support appeals to preteen children as well as teenagers

The report, which analysed the efficacy of online counselling, incorporated a survey to gauge the views of children and young people using Kooth. Asked why they chose to use online counselling, the top three reasons given by young people were:
“I want to discuss my issues without my parents or anyone else knowing” (17%)
“I like being anonymous” (15%)
“I like not having to talk to someone in person” (14%)

A quarter of respondents preferred a mix of online with face-to-face mental health support, illustrating the potential of ‘blended’ digital and in-person services.
Emily Frith, author of the report, commented: “Our analysis provides new insights into the preferences young people in England have when receiving mental health support. We find that they seek help that is convenient, allows for anonymity, and is on their terms. Digital platforms are providing an important route for helping to increase the number of children and young people gaining access to support.

In conjunction with face-to-face services, such platforms can be an innovative solution for local authorities looking to respond to pressures and to provide mental health services which appeal to young people. Further research into this emerging area of service provision is important in order to fully understand the potential benefits it can bring”.

XenZone’s business development director Aaron Sefi commented: “The potential of digital counselling in helping children and young people early so that their issues don’t have chance to escalate – or who are currently on waiting lists for face-to-face services – seems clear. It opens up access to support outside traditional working hours, giving teenagers the ability to share their feelings with peers and contact counsellors directly from their phones. Used alongside face-to-face services, for a short period, or an extended time, we believe it is an essential part of the solution for tackling the UK’s mental health crisis.”

About the report
The report “Online Mental Health Support for Young People” was commissioned by XenZone and produced independently by the Education Policy Institute. It provides a unique insight into current literature on online counselling as well as data from online counselling service, Kooth. It shines a light on what makes online counselling different to face-to-face services. The report provides valuable evidence on this exciting new way of providing support to children and young people. For example, it demonstrates how young people value the anonymity and control it provides. It also sets out key challenges, such as how to include this new provision in data collection to recognise the potential it has to increase access. Finally, the report sets out where further research is needed to build an evidence base to demonstrate the impact of online counselling provision.

About XenZone
Established in 2001, XenZone is a pioneer of online and face-to-face counselling. Of its two primary services, Kooth is aimed at supporting children and young people, while Qwell is focused on adults. Kooth launched in 2004, offering online and face-to-face counselling and self-help support for children and young people, free at the point of use. The Kooth website, where young people log-in anonymously, saw more than 30,000 new registrations in 2016-17. The service is available in more than 70 Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) areas. Through Kooth and Qwell, our team of professional counsellors has delivered over 110,000 hours of online therapy to children, young people (CYP) and adults.

About EPI
The Education Policy Institute (EPI) is an independent, impartial and evidence-based research institute that aims to promote high quality education outcomes, regardless of social background. The EPI provides insights, commentary and critiques about education policy in England – shedding light on what is working and where further progress needs to be made.

For information/interviews with XenZone/Kooth, please contact Lex Young at or on 07948 408912
For information/interviews with EPI, please contact John Cope, Director of Communications and External Affairs, at or on 0207 340 1160