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Callers find Mental Health Line a valuable service

Evaluation shows callers find Mental Health Line a valuable service

9 September 2011

People using the Mental Health Line service say it helps them to get better control of the situation they’re in before it gets any worse.

Findings from an evaluation of the service, which is available in several New Zealand DHB regions and provided by Medibank Health Solutions, were presented today at a trans-Tasman Mental Health Services Conference in Adelaide.

The Mental Health Line has been running since 2002, and this is the most comprehensive evaluation that has taken place, says Mental Health Line team leader Tim Saul.

“The evaluation has brought users’ comments to life and made them meaningful. Over the years we've gathered a lot of statistics which we've now translated into actual service user experience.

“We wanted to know what it feels like to wait on the phone, to be assessed by a mental health professional and referred to a service or helped with self care – and whether the service is effective.”

To gather data, a representative population of callers – which included service users and their families as well as professionals such as police and emergency department workers – was interviewed about their expectations and experiences calling the line.

The vast majority said they found staff highly professional, knowledgeable and patient.

“Sometimes callers feel quite overwhelmed by their circumstances, and just being able to talk about the problem can really help,” says Tim Saul.

“We’re also able to give callers some strategies for caring for themselves. Sometimes just refocussing on how to breathe, relax and be calm is the first thing that’s needed.”

Callers also identified relationship building as one of the Mental Health Line’s main strengths.

“We keep track of frequent callers, or those who have relapsed, and document relapse prevention plans for them,” says Sarah Franklin, also a Mental Health Line team leader presenting at the conference.

“This allows us to build up of a system of trust and to work in partnership with the caller, helping them reflect on their situation, find their own solutions and manage their own symptoms and illness.”

As much as possible, information is shared between services, such as those to whom the caller might be referred, and service users said this helped them feel they were informed and in control of what was happening to them.

The Mental Health Line provides support for the mental health services users of six DHBs, covering a population of over a million New Zealanders. All telephone staff are registered health professionals with extensive skills and experience in working alongside people with mental illness and experiencing crisis.

The line currently handles approximately 50,000 calls per year. It is mainly an after-hours service with calls often routed from Community Mental Health Teams and crisis teams.

ENDS

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