000 Mental health line

000 Mental health line

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My name is Heidi. I’m a mental health recovery advocate. For people like me, being hospitalised during a personal mental health crisis can be made even harder when the police or paramedics get involved. But when people call 000, that’s who gets sent out. And what happens next can have disastrous consequences. That’s why I’m calling for a Triple-0 mental health line.

We're calling on the Australian government to implement the fourth line to “000”, so when a person on the other end of the line answers, they ask “What’s your emergency - fire, police, ambulance, or mental health emergency?”

Over the last few years, we’ve come to understand that mental health in this country is in crisis, and is just as significant an issue as physical health. So why are we making paramedics or even police deal with this complex issue?

We know in Australia first-responders like police and paramedics know they are not the right people to respond to people in complex Post Trauma Stress situations, which is at the heart of so much mental illness. Mental health emergencies often take hours to resolve, the skill base is vastly different to that of a physical or forensic response, which is more about immediacy.

Even if paramedics do the job, people are just dropped off at hospital emergency departments. Often, security staff or police are called, and the whole process becomes a vicious cycle. People experiencing a mental health crisis have been tasered, or had weapons pointed at them. This immediately escalates the situation, the opposite of what that person needs. 

Accessing support relies on a person's ability and resources to get to the internet in a crisis and search through websites. This is almost impossible and unfair in a crisis. The stigma of looking up and using a contact for depression or other mental illness is still very real for many communities.

This is not an unprecedented idea. To address these realities, the US has announced a “988” number direct to their national Suicide crisis support organisation. Through recent times, they've conceded police are not appropriate responders to people in suicidal or mental health crises.

A triple-0 mental health line would utilise resources that are already working well and available in many council jurisdictions in Australia, with minimal restructuring to suit the triple-0 triage system including:

1. Crises and Assessment Treatment Teams (CATT)

2. Carer networks

3. Lived experience peer networks

A national number is needed. A number that every person already knows and has immediate access to.

Add your voice to the “000” mental health emergency line.