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Two-way Texting Service Saving Lives

Workplace mental health has been thrown a lifeline with the rollout of a two-way text-based check-in system that champions employee wellbeing.

TextPulse is a digital health tool that monitors employees' moods, identifying those struggling before their challenges amplify. Based on clinical and behavioural science, it uses two-way text messaging – and one-on-one interaction with a Wellbeing Angel – to ascertain who needs personalised mental and emotional support and what level of support they need.

The technology has been introduced to the New Zealand workforce by training organisation Skills Consulting Group to provide an early safety net for employee wellbeing and create a happier, more productive workforce.

"We're shifting the ambulance from the bottom of the cliff to the top," says Skills Consulting Group's Jane Kennelly. "TextPulse enables businesses to assess large-scale workforce's psychological safety and proactively identify and respond to urgent stressful situations and genuine hardship. Not only that, but the TextPulse dashboard gives employers visibility of the mood of their workforce, helping them to pinpoint broader wellbeing issues within their organisations."

Simple to use and completely confidential, employee text responses which even include emojis, are classified using artificial intelligence into red (urgent action required), orange (semi-urgent; a problem needs assistance) and green (support is needed) indicators. The Wellbeing Angel - who has a Masters in Wellbeing - then responds accordingly and through friendly text conversations, can arrange the specific support required such as referring the individual to Skills Consulting Group's Instep Employee Assistance Service or, for those at suicide risk, escalating them to emergency services.

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Since launching the programme in New Zealand in January, TextPulse has made a powerful impact with these apprentices who are involved in the construction industry, which sees one suicide every week.

"So far, we've given TextPulse access to 11,000 apprentices across roofing, scaffolding, electrical, plumbing and cranes – and in doing so, we're showing 11,000 apprentices every week that we care about them. Apprentices are free to opt-in or out of the platform, but less than five percent of apprentices have de-subscribed in the nine months since its inception. That just shows how valuable people are finding it," says Kennelly.

Over 211,235 text conversations have taken place in that time and 74 cases of extreme urgency, including people with suicide ideation, have been identified and responded to.

Bernie McLaughlin, CEO Master Electricians, is acutely aware of two issues confronting the trades sector.

"We know the terrible statistics for suicide rates in the trades. A tradesperson is likelier to die from suicide than a serious incident on the job. We also know the pressure that our younger demographic is under from issues we Gen-X or older never had to deal with, such as the immediacy of social media information spread, contributes to negative mental health outcomes.

"When combined, these two issues with young trainees in the trades sector are very concerning. TextPulse provides an anonymous avenue for our younger demographic to engage with mental health professionals.

Bernie says historically, seeking mental health support had a stigma attached.

"There has been a reluctance to ring and speak to someone and say that you are not coping very well, especially for the tough male Kiwi tradie. We provide an employee assistance programme for our members, and there has been a distinct upward trend in people seeking support after being referred by TextPulse. The change in attitude to make it OK to ring a councillor for help comes from the anonymity that TextPulse provides."

Ninety-five percent of TextPulse texts are read within three minutes of being sent, giving organisations peace of mind that they're providing a real-time health check for their most valuable assets – their people.

Jane believes its success is because it requires no data plans or internet connection, is easy to use, is free for employees and communicates with people in a way they feel most comfortable. And yes, along with 62 other languages, the system is learning te reo Māori.

"Texting is accessible anywhere, anytime, which is why it's been ideal for tradies or anyone working in the field. It's completely secure and confidential, so people can feel safe to share what's going on for them, not just at work but in any aspect of their lives. TextPulse offers a place of safety."

She says the TextPulse service costs a few dollars per month per employee which means you can check in weekly with large-scale workforces in a way that had not been possible before.

"Businesses can clearly show that they genuinely care about the wellbeing of their people.

"It's a small investment to foster maximum safety and satisfaction and a happier, more productive workplace."

TextPulse's launch in New Zealand and the Pacific results from a partnership between workplace training organisation Skills Consulting Group and leading digital mobile health organisation WelTel Health Inc.

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