Distress Brief Interventions (DBIs) are an innovative approach to reducing emotional pain in people who present in distress. They equip individuals with a range of skills and support to cope with emotional pain, both in the immediate term and for the future. In 2016, the Scottish Government established a DBI pilot programme which ran until March 2021 in four areas: Aberdeen, Inverness, Lanarkshire and Scottish Borders. In April 2020, the Scottish Government announced funding for an extension of the programme, to support people across the whole of Scotland who were distressed during the Coronavirus pandemic.
There are two levels in the DBI programme. Level 1 is provided by trained front-line staff, who provide a compassionate response and offer individuals in distress the opportunity to be referred to Level 2. Specially trained staff in third sector organisations, who offer a brief (around 14 days), compassionate, community-based problem-solving intervention, provide Level 2.
In the original pilot programme, Level 1 was provided by staff from Police Scotland, the Scottish Ambulance Service, NHS Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments and Primary Care. In the extended scheme, Level 1 was provided by NHS24 (a special Health Board in Scotland that runs a telephone advice and triage service). In the pilot, Level 2 was provided by the Richmond Fellowship Scotland and Lanarkshire Association for Mental Health in South Lanarkshire; by Lifelink in North Lanarkshire; by Penumbra in Aberdeen; by Support in Mind in Inverness; and by Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) in the Scottish Borders. In the extension, Level 2 was delivered by the same third sector organisations, but their geographical remits were extended and shared to cover the whole of Scotland. In the extended programme, the Level 2 sessions were provided by telephone or video call, rather than face-to-face.
This evaluation covers the period from May to December 2020 and focuses on the extended DBI programme. A separate evaluation of the original pilot has also been undertaken - Distress Brief Intervention Pilot Programme evaluation: findings report - gov.scot (www.gov.scot). The aims of this evaluation are to investigate the implementation of the extended DBI programme, the experiences of those who delivered and received a DBI in the extended programme, and the impact that DBI had on levels of distress.
To meet the evaluation aims, we used a mixed-method approach. We analysed aggregate data collected by DBI practitioners as a routine part of the DBI programme. We asked individuals who had received DBI through the extended programme to take part in individual telephone interviews. We also interviewed people who delivered DBI at Levels 1 and 2.
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