lifelinesMental health charities have called on commissioners and funding bodies to ensure helplines are adequately resourced to ensure that they can maintain and expand their services to people with mental health problems.This call came at the launch of a new report aimed at highlighting the benefits of mental health helplines.

The report, ‘Life Line: An Evaluation of Mental Health Helplines', by the Mental Health Helplines Partnership (mhhp) in collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), seeks to show how helplines can support people to manage their mental health in a simple, cost-effective way during a time in which budget cuts have led to the closure of many local mental health services.

With fellow mental health charity Mind saying calls to its helplines were up by more than quarter in 2012, Eva Cyhlarova, head of research at the MHF, believes such resources are becoming more important than ever.

"Helplines are a fantastic resource which can help save lives," she said. "It is not acceptable that they are not used as much as they should because of a lack of awareness which results in people’s mental health worsening and not getting the help that they need.

"We’re hoping that better promotion of the helplines to the general public and increased awareness of their services among health care professionals thanks to adequate training helps achieve this."

Having looked at evidence from 50 mental health helpline providers, the mhhp and MHF report found:
- Helplines are a crucial source of information for people with mental health problems and their families and can help save lives
- Investing in mental health helplines allows early intervention and cost savings further down the line
- There is a lack of awareness from the public and health professionals of the benefits of helplines and some people who could benefit are missing out as a result
- Helplines can form a part of an overall care package and potentially help reduce the use of more expensive services but should not replace other services
- Both GPs and community mental health teams saw the potential for helplines to play a role in supporting people with mental health problems or seeking information
- Callers were very positive about the helplines and their services especially their out-of-hours ones and reported positive outcomes, as a result of calling
- Calling a helpline often led to contacting a health professional.

Theodore Spyrou, chief executive of the mhhp, concluded: “Helplines play an important part in the overall package of care for people with mental health and emotional needs; they also support families, friends, carers and other professionals.

"This evaluation enhances the evidence base for helplines by capturing data and views from key stakeholders including callers, helpline workers, GPs and community mental health teams. Helplines provide cost-effective solutions and alternatives to statutory services, particularly out of hours. We encourage commissioners and funding bodies to recognise their value and ensure helplines are adequately resourced to maintain and expand the invaluable contribution they make towards delivering the key objectives contained in the Government’s mental health strategy."