Work starts on Australia's first crisis text service
Lifeline Australia, in partnership with Social Ventures Australia, has begun development on Australia’s first SMS-based crisis support service, Text4Good.
The national charity’s CEO Pete Shmigel said the new service will be an innovative mix of technology and ‘good old-fashioned compassion’ that will help reach more Australians in crisis, particularly those aged 15-44 for whom suicide is the leading cause of death.
“We are excited to be creating the detailed ‘roadmap’ for this new service, with trials expected to begin later in 2017,” Mr Shmigel said.
“From looking at international examples in the US and UK, to involving people with a lived experience of suicide and examining best practice literature, we have the opportunity to create a lifesaving service based on our world-leading practice model.
“There are many possibilities to explore, with the technology allowing for greater supervision and feedback for service improvement purposes. There is even the capability to capture the most common words and phrases used around particular mental and social issues – this, in particular, may help us understand the drivers of suicide for particular demographics, such as the LGBTI community or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“Fundamentally though, we see it as yet another way in which we can connect with compassion to people in need.”
Mr Shmigel said the service will complement Lifeline’s 13 11 14 crisis line (24/7) and nightly online Crisis Support Chat service, which together receive more than a million requests for help each year, and would be integrated with the locally-based efforts of Primary Health Networks (PHNs).
“With more and more people communicating via SMS, in good times and bad, Text4Good has enormous potential to support people when and where help is most needed, in a way that is simple and accessible,” Mr Shmigel said. “It could help people after being discharged from hospital or in high risk spaces such as railways or hotspot locations.
“In particular, young men – a typically hard to reach group – may be more likely to reach out via SMS, rather than the 13 11 14 crisis line. Importantly, Text4Good will be an important gateway to not just other Lifeline services, but other health and social services across the country.”
The Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, announced $2.5m in seed funding for Text4Good in mid-2016. The funding comes as the Australia’s suicide toll reached 10-year-plus high levels, with the national emergency resulting in more than 3000 deaths in 2015 (source: ABS Causes of Death data).
For 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au/gethelp