Frequent callers to telephone helplines: new evidence and a new service model

Pirkis, Jane, Middleton, Aves, Bassilios, Bridget, Harris, Meredith, Spittal, Matthew J., Fedszyn, Izabela, Chondros, Patty and Gunn, Jane (2016) Frequent callers to telephone helplines: new evidence and a new service model. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 10 43: 1-9. doi:10.1186/s13033-016-0076-4

Author Pirkis, Jane
Middleton, Aves
Bassilios, Bridget
Harris, Meredith
Spittal, Matthew J.
Fedszyn, Izabela
Chondros, Patty
Gunn, Jane
Title Frequent callers to telephone helplines: new evidence and a new service model
Journal name International Journal of Mental Health Systems   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1752-4458
Publication date 2016-05
Year available 2016
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1186/s13033-016-0076-4
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 10
Issue 43
Start page 1
End page 9
Total pages 9
Place of publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher BioMed Central
Collection year 2017
Language eng
Formatted abstract
This paper describes a program of work designed to inform a service model to address a challenge for telephone helplines, namely frequent callers.

We conducted a systematic literature review and four empirical studies that drew on different data sources—(a) routinely collected calls data from Lifeline, Australia’s largest telephone helpline; (b) data from surveys/interviews with Lifeline frequent callers; (c) data from the Diagnosis, Management and Outcomes of Depression in Primary Care (diamond) study; and (d) data from Australia’s National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Frequent callers represent 3 % of callers but make 60 % of calls. They are isolated and have few social supports but are not “time wasters”; they have major mental and physical health problems and are often in crisis. They make use of other services for their mental health problems. The circumstances under which they use telephone helplines vary, but current service models reinforce their calling behaviour.

The findings point to a service model that might better serve the needs of both frequent callers and other callers. The model involves offering frequent callers an integrated, tailored service in which they are allocated a dedicated and specially trained telephone crisis supporter (TCS), and given set calling times. It also involves promoting better linkages between telephone helplines and other services that provide mental health care, particularly general practitioners (GPs) and other primary care providers. The next step is to refine and test the model.
Keyword Telephone
Frequent callers
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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