Using text messages to fight depression

The innovative service is being funded by NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group and has been made available to hundreds of patients suffering from depression and anxiety in the Yorkshire city.

Texts to help depression

So how does it work?

Patients who are signed up to the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies service are being sent daily text messages, usually at 7pm, asking questions such as:

  • How are you feeling?
  • What have you been doing?

These text messages act as a prompt for an answer, which the patient can give by texting back. Over time, these text messages build up into a diary which logs the exact date, time and nature of their feelings.

Most people find it difficult to keep track of their emotional ups and downs over time, so keeping a diary of how you feel and when you feel it can give you a better understanding of your own condition. By identifying the times you feel a particular way, you may start to notice patterns and even pinpoint triggers that you can eventually learn to avoid.

The text message diary can be accessed by the patients themselves, and by their therapist.

An added benefit is that texts can be sent as reminders for activities and sessions geared towards treating depression, such as exercise or social group events.

Therapist Simon Bennett leads the service. He said feedback so far has been extremely positive: “Patients are finding it very useful. Some people have really engaged with it and found it very valuable in supporting their therapy.”

So will it be rolled out to other places in the UK? GP Steve Thomas, the lead for mental health at the commissioning group said he would like to see the emerging outcomes from this trial run, which will give a good idea about whether or not the service is truly beneficial for patients.

To find out how counselling and therapy can help, please visit our Depression and Anxiety pages.

View and comment on the original Yorkshire Post article.

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Written by Zoe Thomas

Written by Zoe Thomas

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