A FREE online counselling service for children and young people is being launched in South Gloucestershire.

Commissioned by NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG), the set-up will give children and young people aged 11-19 access to free, anonymous mental health and emotional wellbeing support.

Called Kooth, the service, run by XenZone, offers access to self-help materials, mood-tracking and goal setting tools, counsellor messaging and peer-to-peer support through moderated online forums.

The forums address issues that range from exam stress and depression to self-harm and relationship problems.

Qualified counsellors are available to support any child or young person in one-to-one sessions, from 12-noon until 10pm on weekdays, and from 6pm until 10pm on weekends.

Kooth is available across the area for an initial 12-month period.

Dr David Soodeen, mental health clinical lead at the CCG, said: “Kooth is a fantastic resource for children and young people who are going through a difficult time.

"It’s not a replacement for face-to-face talking therapies, but provides another way for young people to get support quickly and anonymously.

"It’s already helping young people in Bristol and North Somerset, and I’m very pleased it’s now available in South Gloucestershire too.”

XenZone founder Elaine Bousfield said: “Every child and young person deserves free and easy access to mental health support.

"The online nature of Kooth means that all young people can access support, free from the waiting lists and stigma that many face when seeking help.

"We hope through Kooth that more young people in the South Gloucestershire region access early support for their mental health and emotional wellbeing.”