A new text messaging service to support people in crisis has been launched by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The Shout helpline operates 24/7 and connects people in need – those feeling suicidal or suffering a mental health crisis – with trained volunteers.

It allows people to have a conversation from anywhere, at any time, including at school, at work or at home.

While the service is for everyone to use, it’s particular focus is on young people who often prefer text messaging to communicate.

In a joint statement launching the service the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Duke and Duchess of Sussex said: “We are incredibly excited to be launching this service, knowing it has the potential to reach thousands of vulnerable people every day.

“Over the last few months Shout has started working quietly behind the scenes. We have all been able to see the service working up close and are so excited for its future.

“At the heart of this service will be an incredible national volunteer community, one which needs to grow to allow us to support more people in crisis. We hope that many more of you will join us and be part of something very special.”

In October 2017, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, pledged £2million investment to establish a new start-up to support innovative mental health digital tools.

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Today in the UK, a critical new 24/7 text helpline has launched – @giveusashoutinsta This free text messaging helpline is a private, silent and trusted way, for those experiencing mental health challenges to find a safe space to seek help and support. This is an extension of the @heads_together initiative backed by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Earlier last year, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex began supporting this vital program behind the scenes by hosting a meeting at Kensington Palace with contributors and partners. Last November, Their Royal Highnesses also made a surprise visit to meet with a group of Shout volunteers, and participated in a panel with mental health activist @bryonygordon hearing firsthand how the volunteers have found making the connection with vulnerable texters, a majority of whom are under 25, so rewarding – helping to get them through a moment of crisis to a calmer place, and giving them courage to find longer-term support. Powered by a team of trained volunteers, Shout has already quietly enlisted and trained 1,000 volunteers over the last 12 months, whom in turn have helped 60,000 people. SHOUT is modeled on @crisistextline in the US, which since 2013 has processed more than 100 million messages, Shout is the largest initiative of The Royal Foundation to date, in partnership with @heads_together. Tapping into the UK’s volunteer community, Shout aims to recruit 3,000 additional volunteers by the end of the year. Mobilizing a volunteer community with this innovative use of technology will go a long way in helping people get the critical help they need, often in the darkest of times, when those are privately and silently suffering and afraid to seek help. To sign up to volunteer, visit www.giveusashout.org Be the change you wish to see in the world.

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Volunteers must be over 18, have access to a computer and secure internet connection and be able to commit to 25 hours initial training, followed by an ongoing commitment to volunteer two to four hours every week.

So far the initiative has 1,000 volunteers with the aim of boosting that number to 4,000 by the end of the year.

The messaging service is based on Crisis Text Line, a similar service that has been operating in the US since August 2013 and has processed more than 100 million messages in that time.

Victoria Hornby, chief executive at digital mental health charity Mental Health Innovations, said: “At Shout, we are using technology to provide a safe space for anyone who needs it to have conversations wherever they are and whenever they need someone to talk to.

“We also want to make it easier for people to volunteer, to ensure this service can continue to grow and reach those who need it. Through conversations with our charity partners, the sector agrees that demand for help and advice is growing as the urgent crisis in mental health continues in the UK.”

Working with charity partners over the past year, Shout has already supported more than 60,000 conversations in its first year.

The first charity to partner with Shout was The Mix, a wholly digital support service for young people.

Shout forms part of the royal couple’s commitment to support conversations around mental health during their Heads Together campaign.

For more information, or to volunteer, visit giveusashout.org.