New free mental health service offers peer support through choice of communication apps

  • New mental health non-profit, knus, launches online
  • Users can choose which platform they communicate with support volunteers on
  • The non-profit’s name, ‘knus’, comes from the Danish for hug

A new mental health non-profit has been launched aimed at helping people deal with anxiety and depression. The volunteer-run service, knus, is named after the Danish for ‘hug’ and is pronounced ‘k nuse’ (knuːs). “A hug always feels good and that’s the feeling we aim to give to those we help. That feeling when you know someone totally understands you” says founder, Charles Harris.

Peer support volunteers are available at the click of a button, accessed via the user’s choice of favourite messaging apps or a phone call. Users can choose between WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and Telegram, or book a traditional phone call to speak confidentially with a volunteer.

knus’s creator, Charles Harris explains “It was my idea that knus chat was to be accessible by multiple channels. We live in a world where communication occurs in different forms, and I wanted knus to reflect this. Some people are comfortable with a chat on the telephone, whilst others might want to have an ad-hoc conversation using their preferred app.”

The service is run solely by volunteers, all of whom have their own lived experience of mental health and formal training to give support. knus is aimed at providing a listening ear but also gives helpful coping strategies and sign posting to other mental health services.

Aside from instant messaging conversations, knus offers other services to support mental wellbeing. knus provides mental health educational plans, relaxation experiences and live workshops. Their 30 Day Anxiety Plan is particularly popular with users. The plan includes daily user reflections, feedback and holistic tips and relaxation videos. The Plan uses a clever mix of chat bot technology, animated gifs and a conversational style of communication that helps the user feel connected with the service even before they are matched to a volunteer to guide them through their submitted reflections.

One user, who completed the 30 Day Anxiety Plan said “I really enjoyed the experiences and especially the relaxing meditations and sleep story.  The holistic tips helped along the way.  I feel it’s modern and easy to use, which I’m sure will appeal to most. It can be used as much or as little as is needed”.

knus is a service which aims simply to be there for people. “When feeling lonely, all it takes is for someone to ’be there’, who understands truly how it feels.” Knus makes it clear that the service is not intended as a substitute for professional medical health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Mental health services such as Samaritans and 999 are signposted for anyone seeking support in an emergency.

Charles Harris explains why knus was created:

“I struggled with a mental health breakdown three and a half years ago. Since that happened, I returned to education and have been giving back by volunteering within the NHS. Last year, I put what I learnt through lived experience, volunteering and education to good use and built knus. I was compelled to do it even more so after contracting Covid and being very poorly.

I felt that there wasn’t enough out there to help people with their mental health, especially help from those who understand how it feels. I wanted to mix peer support with life coaching because we all feel better once we’ve spoken to someone who understands how we feel and, we have some positive goals to work towards.”

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