An independent interim evaluation of a ground breaking mental health pilot suggests it could be helping to prevent some suicidal behaviour.

The interim evaluation looked at the Distress Brief Intervention (DBI) programme which is a short-term intervention for people in distress/emotional pain who do not need emergency medical treatment, but who present in settings like A&E departments, GP surgeries, to police officers or Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) staff.

DBI sees specially trained staff help individuals manage difficult emotions and problem situations early on, and come up with a ‘distress management plan’ to prevent future crisis.

Welcoming the interim findings, national DBI programme manager Kevin O’Neill said: “It is important to stress this is an interim evaluation with a fuller evaluation to follow in 2021.

“However, it’s very encouraging to see that the implementation of DBI has generally been delivered as intended and has been broadly welcomed by all those involved.

“I must thank the evaluation team not only for the report but also their support in using the findings to help us continue to improve DBI and provide the best connected, compassionate support possible.

“I hope all the staff involved with the DBI programme take tremendous encouragement from this as it validates all the tremendous work they have put in to date.”

The interim evaluation found that the most common presenting problem was feeling depressed/ low mood, followed by stress/anxiety and then suicidal thoughts.

The most common contributory factor was relationship issues. Life coping issues and emotional wellbeing were more commonly reported for women than for men; alcohol and substance use were more commonly reported for men than for women.

Dr Edward Duncan from the Nursing Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit (University of Stirling), leads the multi-agency consortium evaluating DBI. Dr Duncan said: “These preliminary findings suggest that the DBI programme is being implemented well across all four sites and that it is widely appreciated by those who receive the service.

“Our data indicates that DBI is generally proving helpful to people, many of whom present with high levels of distress.

“We greatly appreciate everyone’s participation in its evaluation.”

Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey, said: “DBI plays a key role in helping people in distress by getting them the support they need and it’s very encouraging that people are saying they felt treated with compassion and were helped to manage their distress.

“This interim report also notes that most people who received follow-up support, experienced a reduction in their distress levels.

“The interim evaluation report provides recommendations on a number ways in which the pilot service can continue to improve. I look forward to seeing the programme’s continued development.”

To view the interim evaluation visit: https://www.dbi.scot/resources/progress-reports/