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Launch of Online Chat for missing adults

Today, we have launched our Online Chat service for adults who are missing or thinking of leaving home.

Up to 80% of adults who are reported missing have experienced problems with their mental health. Over the course of the pandemic, the charity saw a rise in the number of calls coming from people who were assessed as being at serious risk of coming to harm. The main issues that helpline staff heard were worsening mental health, leading to thoughts of suicide or self-harm, feeling very unhappy or unsafe at home due to relationship breakdowns in the family, and homelessness.

Sophie Lapham, Director of Services at Missing People, said:

“Over the past year or so, in particular, we have been speaking to people who have felt ‘like they just want to disappear’ or ‘feel trapped’ and ‘need to get away’. They say they ‘don’t want to be here anymore’ and feel like their families and friends ‘would be better off without them’. These are their words.

Adults go missing or think about leaving their homes for a multitude of reasons, but the one thing that unites the experience of most missing people, is poor mental health. Whether that in itself is the trigger or their mental health declines due to external factors such as relationship issues, or problems with work, money or debt.

At this stage we can listen and really hear and support people who reach out to us. We can help them to work through their thinking and to see choices and a way forward.”

Ju Blencowe experienced a missing episode in 2017 during a mental health crisis following the death of her mother. She said

“Becoming lost through trauma isn’t just an entity in itself, you’re not just physically lost, you’re emotionally and psychologically lost too. It chokes all of you, squeezes out your capacity to see and feel and function in ways that used to be ‘the norm’ for you. That makes reaching out so hard. Speaking out your pain can make you feel as if you’re going to break into pieces, there’s too much to say and not enough words or energy to say it, you can fear judgment, betrayal and a plethora of other emotions. That’s when inertia sets in and you stop speaking and just keep running because it would hurt too much to stop. That’s the danger zone.

I believe that the new online chat service for missing people could build a bridge across to others who feel like I once did. You can share your pain with as little or as much anonymity as you feel you need. It’s less intrusive and yet still vitally in touch with another person whose sole purpose is to listen without judgement and support without fear of reprisal.”

The service is confidential, anonymous, non-judgemental and can be accessed immediately via our website between 2:30 and 9:30pm 7 days a week.

Thanks to support from the Gamesys Foundation, trained staff can now provide emotional support, guidance to safety and the chance to send a message home to adults who are away or thinking about leaving, via Online Chat. This is in addition to traditional ways to access support such as the free, confidential telephone helpline on 116 000, or via text or email.

Sophie added: “Having launched Online Chat for young people a few years ago, we know that the ways people want to access support are changing. More people prefer the speed and anonymity of instant chat, particularly young adults. We want to make it as easy as possible for people in crisis to get the help they need.”

Neil Goulden, Trustee at the Gamesys Foundation said: “Missing People today launch their powerful new Online Chat service for adults who are missing or thinking of going missing. The Gamesys Foundation are proud and delighted to support Missing People and fund this service especially around the areas of mental health which is commonly experienced by missing people.”

For help, advice or support, or to pass on information about a missing person, you can call or text Missing People, confidentially, on 116 000, email 116000@missingpeople.org.uk or visit www.missingpeople.org.uk/get-help/being-missing to access Online Chat.