Learn about The Forward Trust’s Reach Out Online Chat

Photo by Utsman Media on Unsplash

Reach Out is The Forward Trust’s online web-chat service, offering free, confidential support to anyone aged 16 and above who may feel isolated or overwhelmed by struggles with addiction, mental health and/or other challenges.

Our volunteer agents freely offer their time to help encourage individuals in accessing support, often signposting people to Forward’s community services. Our volunteers have a pivotal role, helping to capture motivation and encourage people to take the first step in getting help and support for drugs and/or alcohol issues. Our volunteer agents, who manage the web chat conversations, encourage new and former clients to self-refer by phone, email or drop-in to local community units. They also encourage people to use online referral forms where they exist for services.

The most common reason people contact Reach Out is to find someone to talk to. We are providing an invaluable service, helping people feel they are not isolated and alone with their struggles. During the last calendar year, Reach Out agents responded to 3,531 live chats or replied personally to the offline messages left when the service was closed.

During recent months, we have seen an increase in the number of people contacting us about substance misuse issues – the most common reason people got in touch was seeking support for their own drug and alcohol issues (on average 40%). However, the service is also being used by family members; agents often explore services of support for loved ones and listen to the issues of concern for the family member, encouraging them to seek support for their own understanding and psychological health and wellbeing.

The Reach Out team have been working hard to promote the service to the widest audience possible, with support from the communications team. Outreach has included linking in with universities to promote the service to their students, notably the University of Kent in Canterbury and Nottingham Trent University. Both have embedded information and links to Reach Out within their student well-being portals.

We are fortunate to have 15 volunteers who on average offer a three-hour shift weekly to respond to the live webchats. We have a good mix of skills within our volunteer team – we have many students who are gaining experience who work alongside volunteers with lived experience and want to give back. I personally can’t thank the Reach Out Volunteers enough as without their continued support the service simply wouldn’t run as effectively as it does. But we are always looking for more people to join the Reach Out team.

We currently offer Reach Out training for any existing Forward Trust volunteer who is interested in finding out more about Reach Out and web chat support, and the relevance this has for the people we support. There is no obligation to volunteer for Reach Out – this is a free training opportunity that you are welcome to attend.

If you are a current Forward Trust volunteer or staff member and are interested in attending a two-hour initial Reach Out Training Session delivered via Microsoft Teams, please contact Juliet Perschky.

This blog was originally published by The Forward Trust. You can read the original post here.

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