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Building a Lifeline for the Future: Expectations, innovations, outcomes

The Building a Lifeline for the future: Expectations, innovations, outcomes project is a five-year National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) partnership project between the University of Canberra (Lead Investigator Professor Debra Rickwood) and Lifeline Australia.

Project Summary

The Building a Lifeline for the Future: Expectations, innovations, outcomes project is a five-year National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) partnership project between the University of Canberra (Lead Investigator Professor Debra Rickwood) and Lifeline Australia.

The project commenced on 1 May 2019 and is anticipated to end in 2024. Collaborating institutions include the University of New South Wales, the Australian National University, Federation University Australia, Macquarie University and Griffith University.

The project aims to enhance the evidence base for crisis support services- and Lifeline in particular - thus enabling Lifeline to even better support help seekers and be a maximally effective, responsive and integral part of the healthcare and social assistance service systems.

The project will do this by:

  • Identifying the types of issues facing help-seekers that Lifeline is expected to support and the outcomes expected to be achieved;
  • Developing reliable and innovative ways to measure actual help seekers needs and their outcomes from accessing crisis support;
  • Determining whether fidelity to the current practice framework achieves appropriate outcomes for all help seekers.

This research will help to provide insights to ensure Lifeline can meet the needs of the Australian community now and into the future as well as contributing to the advancement of crisis support services world wide.

FY 2022 Update

Published paper: Help‐seeker expectations and outcomes of a crisis support service: Comparison of suicide‐related and non‐suicide‐related contacts to Lifeline Australia


O’Riordan, M., Ma, J.S., Mazzer, K., Batterham, P., Kõlves, K., Woodward, A., Klein, B., Larsen, M., Goecke, R., Gould, M., & Rickwood, D. (2022). Help-seeker expectations and outcomes of a crisis support service: Comparison of suicide-related and non-suicide-related contacts to Lifeline Australia. Health & Social Care in the Community. Available at https://doi.org/10.1111/hsc.13857

  • This paper reports an online survey of help-seekers who have used Lifeline’s telephone, online chat and text message modalities (N=553).
  • The main expectations of all help-seekers were to feel heard and listened to, feel less upset and feel understood, and help-seekers reported the service was best at achieving such short-term outcomes.
  • There were 59.5% of the sample that reported suicidality as a reason for contact. Suicide-related contacts endorsed more reasons for contact than non-suicide-related contacts. Expectations of suicide-related help-seekers were greater, but they were less likely to report that their expectations were met.
  • The high complexity and expectations of suicide-related contacts reveal the challenges in meeting the needs of this high-priority group, and opportunities for service enhancements are identified.

FY 2021 Update

Published paper: Community expectations and anticipated outcomes for crisis support services—Lifeline Australia

Ma, J. S., Batterham, P. J., Kõlves, K., Woodward, A., Bradford, S., Klein, B., ... & Rickwood, D. J. (2021). Community expectations and anticipated outcomes for crisis support services—Lifeline Australia. Health & Social Care in the Community.

  • This paper reports on the results of a computer-assisted telephone survey of a nationally representative community sample (N=1300) exploring expectations and outcomes of Lifeline’s crisis support services.
  • Results showed that a majority of respondents expected Lifeline to listen and provide support, recommend other services, and provide information, with prioritisation of people feeling suicidal, in immediate personal crisis, and experiencing domestic violence. Help-seekers were expected to feel heard and listened to, receive safety advice or support to stay safe, and feel more hopeful.
  • The results show that the community has extensive and diverse expectations for this national crisis service to meet both short and longer-term needs for all vulnerable members of the community—entailing a very substantial public health service responsibility.

FY 2020 Update

Published paper: A systematic Review of User Expectations and Outcomes of Crisis Support Services

Mazzer, K., O'Riordan, M., Woodward, A., & Rickwood, D. (2020). A systematic review of user expectations and outcomes of crisis support services. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention.

  • This paper presents a systematic review of the current research exploring users’ expectations and outcomes of crisis support services.
  • Findings are that user expectations and outcomes vary, but studies generally reported telephone and online chat users reported positive outcomes, including reductions in suicidality, improvements in wellbeing, receiving referrals, and developing self-care plans.
  • Recommendations focus on the need for consistent measurement of outcomes across crisis support chat, text and phone services.