Evaluation of outcomes for help seekers accessing a pilot SMS-based crisis intervention service in Australia
Background: In July 2018, Lifeline Australia launched Australia's first short message service (SMS) crisis support service. Lifeline Text aims to reduce psychological distress and increase coping and social connectedness among help seekers, particularly those who prefer textbased communication. Aims: We aimed to independently evaluate the pilot SMS service over a 240-day period. Method: The service evaluation used operational data, pre and postconversation automated questions, and an online survey to assess outcomes. Results: There were 7,315 contacts during operational hours, of which 5,266 progressed to the queue and 99.2% were answered. Suicide was actively being considered by 1,554 help seekers, and 171 were assessed at imminent risk. Commonly discussed topics were mental health problems, issues relating to the self and identity, and family relationship difficulties. Limitations: This was an evaluation of a pilot service focusing on demand and short-term outcomes. Conclusion: The service succeeded in reaching some under-served groups. On average, help seekers were significantly less distressed, felt more confident in their ability to cope and felt greater connection to others, following the text intervention. The demand for Lifeline Text and the high level of suicidality of help seekers show it is meeting urgent needs in the community.
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Department of Health, Australian Government