A ground-breaking mental health programme designed to support people in distress has been recommended for roll out across Scotland, following a University of Stirling-led evaluation.
Professor Edward Duncan, of the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit (NMAHP-RU) at Stirling, led the evaluation of the Distress Brief Intervention (DBI) – introduced by the Scottish Government to improve the response of frontline service providers to people in distress.
The DBI has two levels; the first sees frontline workers in areas such as emergency departments, police, ambulance service, and primary care trained to ease a person’s distress. If appropriate, they can then be referred to the DBI level two service, with the promise of support within 24 hours.
Level two support is provided by commissioned and trained third sector staff who contact the person within 24 hours of referral and provides around 14 days of problem-solving support, wellness and distress management planning, supported connections, and signposting.
A pilot programme has taken place at several sites across Scotland: Penumbra (Aberdeen), Support in Mind (Inverness), NHS Borders Joint Mental Health Service, Health and Social Care North Lanarkshire, and South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership.
Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport
Our evaluation found that DBI has proven to be successful in offering support to a wide range of people in distress. The programme's facilitation of effective and efficient working within, and between, various agencies is particularly commendable and was a key component of its overall success.
Professor Duncan worked on the multi-agency evaluation alongside colleagues at ScotCen, The Mental Health Foundation, and Glasgow Caledonian University. Reflecting on the evaluation, Professor Duncan said: “This evaluation is the result of several years' work and collaboration with a wide range of evaluation partners, services, practitioners and people who received DBI.
“Our evaluation found that DBI has proven to be successful in offering support to a wide range of people in distress. The programme's facilitation of effective and efficient working within, and between, various agencies is particularly commendable and was a key component of its overall success.”
National DBI programme manager Kevin O’Neill, said: “The publication of this evaluation is a significant landmark for DBI. The key independent recommendation that DBI should be further implemented across Scotland offers significant weight in support of the Scottish Government’s existing commitment to embed DBI in all NHS Board areas by March 2024.
“The combination of compassionate response and practical support, which is at the heart of DBI, was found to be central in helping people understand their distress and reduce it.
“I must thank the evaluation team not only for the report but also their support in using the emerging findings over the course of the evaluation process to help us continue to improve.
“I want to thank the people who have received DBI and shared their experience, enabling others to benefit from improved services. I also want to thank all colleagues, organisations, partnerships and the DBI community for working together to develop and deliver DBI, while supporting and embracing the independent evaluation.
“The report validates all the tremendous work they have put in to date and the DBI community is inspired and committed to using the learning and recommendations, in support of the continuous improvement to provide the best connected, compassionate support possible.”
Kevin Stewart, Minister for Mental Wellbeing & Social Care, said: “I am pleased that this independent evaluation is confirming the hugely successful role the Distress Brief Intervention programme plays in providing timely, compassionate support to people in emotional distress.
“Since the programme was developed in 2016, the Scottish Government has invested over £12m in the programme which has supported over 27,000 people at a time of crisis.
“I would like to thank all our partners involved in developing and providing this service and I look forward to working together to achieve our target of national coverage by March 2024.”
Read the evaluation report on the Scottish Government website.