A mental health service that provides two weeks of immediate, compassionate support to people in distress has launched in Fife, following successful roll-outs in other regions of Scotland.

The Distress Brief Intervention service (DBI) in Fife is provided by SAMH (Scottish Action for Mental Health). The charity works closely with the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership’s frontline colleagues, such as primary care teams, Police Scotland and the Scottish Ambulance Service, who will ease the distress of those they come into contact with and when appropriate, refer the person in distress to the compassionate, person-centred support they need.

The DBI service will then contact the person within 24 hours and, over the next two weeks, work closely with the person receiving support to complete a distress management plan, develop coping strategies, and establish connections with people and organisations within their local community.

Through an independent evaluation, DBI was shown to be highly valued by services and people receiving support. It is being rolled out across Scotland, with over 58,600 people receiving DBI support since it was first delivered in four areas of Scotland in 2017. Fife is the 25th health and social care partnership in Scotland to establish a local DBI service, joining areas such as Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire and the Scottish Borders, where SAMH also provides the service.

Since DBI started in 2017, SAMH has supported an average of more than 100 people per week through its DBI offerings. The overwhelming majority of people who have used the SAMH DBI services report having received a compassionate response, which helped them feel more able to manage both their immediate and future distress, with levels of distress reducing significantly over the two-week period.

This includes people like Debbie, who was referred to DBI in Fife by a Primary Care Mental Health Nurse after experiencing heightened anxiety and being signed off work with long-term stress.

During two weeks with DBI Debbie received six sessions of direct support, completed a safe plan, built a more positive routine, began practising cognitive behavioural techniques and re-engaged with old hobbies and interests. Debbie also reached out to her GP to arrange an appointment to discuss anxiety, and was signposted to Time for You, an online wellbeing support service provided by SAMH.

Debbie said: “By the time I finished working with DBI I was surprised that we had managed to get to the point we had. Although the issue causing me the stress couldn’t be fixed quickly, DBI helped me to find ways to cope with my stress and manage my ways of thinking. I will use the techniques and resources for any life stressors I experience from now on.

“Although there is still a lot of work for me to do, working with this service has really helped me and I would hate to think of the position I would be in if I didn’t have access to it.”

Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport, who visited the SAMH Fife DBI service and met key partners, said:

“Supporting people who experience emotional or mental health distress is a high priority for the Scottish Government.

“The Distress Brief Intervention programme is a key element in the provision of unscheduled care for people in distress. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to visit DBI colleagues in Fife as part of our rollout programme towards having DBI live in all NHS Board areas.

“Up to January 2024, DBI had already supported over 58,600 people, and I look forward to hearing how using this innovative intervention has helped people in distress locally.”

Alex Cumming, Executive Director of Operations at SAMH, said: "We are so pleased to have introduced the DBI service to Fife, giving many more people the opportunity to receive the support they need in times of distress. It is our ambition that anyone seeking support with their mental health should be able to ask once and get the right help fast. Two weeks may seem like a short time, but it is remarkable how much people can achieve with appropriate, compassionate support, which is exactly what our DBI services provide.”

Rona Laskowski, Head of Complex and Critical Care Services, Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Supporting Fifers’ mental health and wellbeing is a priority for the Partnership, and I’m delighted to see the Distress Brief Intervention service being established here. By working with our partners, we can help to provide support to people in distress when they need it and give them the confidence and skills to manage distress in the future.”

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