Teenagers aged 11-18 attending North Edinburgh schools can now receive access to a digital
mental health app as part of a pilot scheme via the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI).
Wysa, a clinically validated AI-driven mental health app has been awarded the SBRI grant to
work with local services in order to deploy the resource for free to young people, regardless
of need. They will be receiving access to the full Wysa platform with a wide range of tools
and resources, supporting with challenges such as anxiety, sleep, stress, relationships, body
image and more.
As part of the pilot, Wysa is working with Health Innovation South East Scotland to
understand how young people currently access early support and how services in Scotland
can be linked up. They will also be listening to young people to explore what they want and
need from services, to help design the next phases of support.
1 in 8 (242 out of 2000) students offered have started using the app within just two weeks,
demonstrating a desire for support. Recent research from Wysa found that 8 in 10 (78%) of
young people would prefer to talk to an app than their teacher, showing a real appetite for
a digital solution. Wysa is completely confidential and anonymous, providing an outlet for
support at any stage.
A Pupil Support Leader at one of the schools in North Edinburgh said
“Wysa will be invaluable to the quieter students who don’t speak up and ask for help when they need it. It will also help give them the confidence to speak to staff in the future.”
By improving access for young people via early intervention support, not only will they
receive the care they need, but demand on crisis services could be alleviated by providing
alternative support earlier in the care pathway.
This support is needed. More than 1 in 3 (34%) of UK 13-17-year-olds surveyed indicate
symptoms of depression and/or anxiety that warrant investigation – and 82% self-report a
range of mental health issues such as anxiety (49% – rising to 63% of females), trouble
sleeping (21%), dislike of image (26%), fear of socialising (29%) and other concerns. Half are
worried about their parents’ money, showing the influence of the news agenda and cost of
living crisis on teenagers’ mental health. All of this demonstrates just how vital support that
meets young people where they are and when they need it is right now.
One of the schools spoke about how they have over 300 students currently waiting for
counselling after a traumatic incident at the school. They had reached out for help from
other sources unsuccessfully, and felt that Wysa would provide the additional support so many
of their students need.
This new scheme supports young people at early stages of need, working with them through
the care pathway. The results of the pilot will inform new pathways of delivery and care,
with a view to rolling Wysa out at the population level across Scotland.
Emma Taylor, CAMHS Lead at Wysa says
“We know that at the moment support isn’t available right when our young people need and want it most. Resources mean that treatment is only available for those meeting specific criteria and at certain times of the day or delivered in an inflexible way. Wysa can be a solution that supports young people at every stage in their mental health journey, and helps release the burden on an NHS that is doing its best, but struggling at times with resources.”
Koda, 17, is a student who uses Wysa and says:
“I found out about Wysa through a friend when I was feeling very depressed and suicidal. I truly believed that there was no hope for me. I started to use the app and having the 24/7 support, no matter where I was or what time it was, has been the best thing. I can just pull out my phone and talk through any problems I might be having at the time, like a panic attack. Every time I finish a session with Wysa, I feel more relaxed and ready for the day. I like knowing that I’m not going to be judged or feel like a burden when talking to Wysa. It’s a safe outlet for me when life is getting too tough to handle. There is always something available to help me and it has done a great job at getting me out of my depression. I’ve started to be more active and productive and my overall mood has been a lot better.”
SBRI, the Small Business Research Initiative, aims to bring new technologies to the NHS by
providing access to innovations that solve unmet needs. Ideas are assessed by an
independent assessment panel and a fully funded development contract is agreed between
the company and the NHS. The SBRI is funded by the Scottish Health Industry Partnership
(SHIP), part of the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office, and the Scottish Government
Mental Health and Wellbeing Directorate.