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New tech to help find the right mental health helpline

Thousands of LGBTIQ and other Australians in crisis are set to benefit from a new charity’s technology that can reduce the time it takes to find and contact a suitable mental health helpline.

Latest government data show that almost half of the Australian population will experience mental illness at some time, and a recent study revealed that more than three quarters of Australians reported worsened mental health as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New local charity Live For Tomorrow will help news companies and social media platforms more effectively connect users in crisis with mental health support services.

It will offer the world’s largest database of mental health helplines to those experiencing distress, providing a user-friendly online interface to select the right support service instantly.

Users will also be able to access the database of over 1,600 helplines directly through the charity’s Find A Helpline website in the coming weeks.

Founder Elliot Taylor said the challenges of searching for the right helpline at a time of crisis can be a barrier to seeking support.

“What we know is that people in crisis can struggle to connect with helplines that best fit their needs for a range of reasons,” said Taylor.

“These barriers can manifest in a number of ways, including the stigma of reaching out for help.

“Our aim is to remove the perceptual and logistic barriers and make the first step taken to connect with support as seamless as possible.

“The user can confidentially select the right service to fit their specific needs and know straight away whether they offer support for the deaf or hard of hearing community via text message, are familiar with the issues facing LGBTQ+ youth, or even just knowing which hours they are open – an issue particularly relevant to regional services which aren’t always funded for 24/7 support.”

Live For Tomorrow has also partnered with social media app TikTok to help promote mental health and wellbeing resources and content on the platform.

Taylor said the program has received funding and international recognition that have opened a number of doors.

He said that although it is still in beta testing, the chance to be a bridge between helplines and the public during the pandemic has meant the program is well-placed to expand globally.

In the coming weeks, it will also launch in the UK, Northern Ireland, Canada, the Caribbean, and the US.

“Once our service covers the whole English-speaking world, then we will look for support to be able to localise the tool and get it into different languages,” said Taylor.

“Our aim is to have one portal that, wherever you are in the world, and if you’re struggling, within a matter of clicks you can talk to someone confidentially about what’s going on.”

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