Case study: Use of messaging by a young people’s mental health service

In January 2018, Compass BUZZ, based in North Yorkshire, was one of the first mental health services for young people in the country to offer a confidential text messaging service to young people.

Organisation: Compass
Service: Compass BUZZ (North Yorkshire)

The situation

Compass BUZZ offers mental health and wellbeing training to school staff and key partners to help them to support young people in North Yorkshire with emotional and mental health concerns. Alongside this, its sister service, Compass REACH, offers one-to-one interventions as well as referrals into specialist or universal services for children and young people.

In order to offer a direct route for young people aged 11-18 to get confidential advice from the Compass BUZZ team, the service was commissioned to set up a ChatHealth messaging service in January 2018. Young people were consulted to name the Compass BUZZ messaging service, which is called BUZZ US. The messaging service enables young people to text in for support about any mental health or wellbeing concerns such as low mood, stress, eating problems, self-harm, anxiety, or self-esteem.

YMM recognised that mental health is a stigmatised topic amongst young people and understood that they needed to operate a discreet service to help young people feel comfortable in accessing mental health support.

Compass BUZZ Team Leader, Rachael Askew explains how the messaging service makes it easier for young people to reach out for mental health support,

“A lot of young people don’t want to make a telephone call to get help, so text messaging helps to overcome that fear of reaching out for mental health support. The fact that it’s anonymous also makes it appealing to young people.”

The solution

The Compass BUZZ team was supported by the Digital Health Transformation Service, based at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, to set up their messaging service and continue to offer support via their technical helpdesk and access to a national network of ChatHealth practitioners.

As well as following the tried-and-tested ChatHealth standard operating procedures, the team has continued to evolve its clinical quality processes. Regular group supervision provides the opportunity to discuss messaging contacts, how it went and what could have been done differently. Annual desktop exercises are carried out to simulate fictional challenging scenarios that might occur during messaging conversations.

Rachael explains how the team supports each other to offer the best experience to service users,

“As we’re dealing with conversations around emotional health, there is often no quick answer. Some conversations take place over a few days. We have controls in place, such as handover notes and reviews, ensuring that young people are getting what they need out of a conversation, that it comes to a timely conclusion and not left to drift on.”

There is a rota system in place for responding to incoming messages from young people. One member of staff is on duty for the day and this is planned out for the whole year. Good links have been established with North Yorkshire Police, which has been essential for escalating crisis situations.

Compass BUZZ works closely with schools and key partners in North Yorkshire, who support the BUZZ US messaging service by promoting it to young people in schools. Posters are displayed across schools and pocket-size BUZZ US cards are handed out. The service had to be promoted differently during the lockdown, with digital copies of BUZZ US cards, posters with QR codes, and resource packs supplied which could be emailed out and sent to young people at home and shared on school websites. Young people accessing one-to-one support from the Compass REACH are also signposted to use the BUZZ US messaging service. It is also listed on the CCG’s mental health support website The Go-To.

The results

The BUZZ US messaging service is now well embedded into the core service offering of the Compass BUZZ team. It is providing an accessible way for young people to get mental health support.

  • An average of 500 messages from service users is received each month.
  • Have seen increased contact for concerns around anxiety and panic attacks during the pandemic.
  • For the majority of messaging contacts, young people’s questions are answered within the messaging conversation, or they are signposted to suitable web-based information and services.

The forward-thinking Compass BUZZ team has embraced using messaging to engage directly with young people. Over the time it’s been in use, staff users have increased their confidence and competence in structuring a clear and succinct response to offer trusted mental health and wellbeing advice and information via messaging.

Young people are getting a great user experience, which is evident from the regular positive feedback from young people received following their messaging contact.

“Thank you so much! I messaged here before and it really helped me.”

“It definitely pointed me in the right direction to getting the help I need. Thank you for all of your help.”

“Thank you I appreciate your support. I slept really well as I was very relaxed, this was greatly appreciated as I usually have trouble with falling asleep.”


“We’re so proud that our team offers such a unique service in North Yorkshire – we were the only service running a specialist messaging service for young people’s mental health support for quite some time. It’s now a key part of our day-to-day routine and we wouldn’t be without it as we have been able to help and support so many young people.”

Rachael Askew, Compass BUZZ Team Leader