Project to help people cope scales up

Offer of compassionate support to people in distress to be expanded to 16- and 17-year olds

Monday 20th May 2019

A pilot project that looks to prevent mental health problems early on by offering support to people in distress is to expand to include 16- and 17-year olds.

The Distress Brief Intervention (DBI) initiative aims to help people who are experiencing mental pain without admitting them to formal services by training A&E, ambulance, police and NHS workers to provide a supportive and compassionate initial response.

People can then be referred on to specialist support workers who make contact and help them manage their mental health challenges.

From this summer the programme will be for all those aged 16 and over in the four pilot areas of Lanarkshire, the Borders, Inverness and Aberdeen.

“The whole reason DBI came about was they recognised so many people were in distress and didn’t belong in a cell overnight and didn’t belong in a hospital, didn’t need to be admitted, but they needed support and they needed it quickly,” peer recovery practitioner Christy Sandbergen told last month.

People who are referred have access as much support as they feel they need in a two-week period.

One person who has benefitted is 19-year-old Julia Stachursk from Lanarkshire, who was referred after an attempt to end her own life last summer.

She said: “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was very impressed with the rapid response I received. It was really helpful having someone to talk to and help me work through all the issues that were making me feel the way I did and better understand them.”

The Mental Health Minister, Clare Haughey, said: “Mental health is an absolute priority for the Scottish Government and our ten-year mental health strategy clearly sets out our vision to address a number of challenges, including the provision of more efficient and effective mental health services and supporting mental health in primary care.

She continued: “Early intervention like this is such an important part of how we treat mental and emotional health and the DBI is all about equipping people with the skills and support to manage their own health and to prevent future crisis.”

Kevin O’Neill, DBI programme manager, added: “It’s fantastic news that the connected, compassionate support which DBI-trained staff provide to those in distress is being extended to 16 and 17-year-olds.

“While this innovative project is still in the pilot phase, the extension is also testimony to the hard work and commitment of health, police and Scottish Ambulance Service staff, as well as the other organisations providing support.”