Implementation of a pilot SMS-based crisis support service in Australia staff experiences of supporting help-seekers via text

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Background: Australia’s first short message service (SMS) crisis support service was launched by Lifeline Australia in July 2018. The pilot program was independently evaluated over a 240-day period. Aims: We aimed to examine the experiences of key staff employed in the Lifeline Text pilot and identify the skills and types of support required to deliver a high-quality SMS-based crisis support service. Method: In total, 22 interviews were conducted with 14 Lifeline Text crisis supporters and in-shift supervisors (supervisors) at two time points in September 2018 and March 2019. A modified framework approach was adopted to undertake qualitative data analyses. Results: Delivering crisis support via text was initially challenging as a result of the need to translate skills from telephone crisis support to the SMS platform. This was compounded by the high degree of suicidality of help-seekers and volatility in demand for the service. Limitations: The independent evaluators were not involved in the design of the pilot. Conclusion: Lifeline text is providing an important and necessary service, using a novel mode of delivery in Australia. Maintaining service quality at peak demand, with many distressed and suicidal help-seekers, requires specialized training, experience, and exceptional skills.

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Funding Sponsor

Department of Health, Australian Government



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