Support in Mind Scotland recently launched the Scottish Government’s Distress Brief Intervention (DBI) project in the Highlands.

As the Programme Overview (below) explains, the pilot project will run in fourdifferent areas of Scotland, with a lead agency in each area facilitating the cooperative work of a large number of different local partners.

In the Highlands, Support in Mind Scotland is bringing together statutory and non-statutory partner agencies including Police Scotland, Scottish Ambulance Service, Primary Care and Accident and Emergency services, as well as third sector agencies involved in various aspects of support and mental health recovery work.

Support in Mind Scotland has three  new colleagues who form the core DBI team:

  • Helen Moore, DBI Project Manager
  • Kim Haines, DBI Coordinator
  • and Lisa Anderson, DBI Coordinator

Several other SiMS staff in the Highlands have taken part in training for the project and may do sessional work as it becomes available.

The project was launched on 30 October 2017 and we received our first referral on 2 November.

Bruce Armstrong, SiMS area manager for the Highlands, said: "We believe that it will make a significant and measurable difference to the lives of people living in the Highlands.

"The DBI Project will enable front-line services to give a consistent, compassionate response to people presenting in distress, knowing that they can refer people quickly to effective support that will start without delay.

“Our hope is this early intervention approach will allow many people to avoid exacerbation of their distress and deterioration of their mental health

Bruce Armstrong, SiMS Area Manager

"An important feature of the programme is that referrals will be made within 24 hours of the distressed person’s first presentation. Following referral DBI staff will work with the person over a period of 14 days, offering emotional support, exploring coping strategies and signposting to further, longer-term support if required.

"Our hope is that this early intervention approach will allow many people to avoid exacerbation of their distress and deterioration of their mental health."

For further information about the DBI programme in the Highlands please contact

Helen Moore,

Distress Brief Intervention Project Manager,

5 Bank Street,

Inverness IV1 1QY

Tel: 01463 710963; Mobile: 07917 738137

email: [email protected] 

or visit our website:

Distress Brief Intervention: Programme Overview

  1. Introduction

Distress Brief Interventions (DBIs) are an innovative way of supporting people in distress.  The Distress Brief Intervention programme is a Scottish Government pilot project which will run in 4 areas of Scotland until March 2021. Support in Mind Scotland is the lead agency for the programme in the Highlands, and is working in partnership with a range of statutory and 3rd sector organisations in order to coordinate development of the project. The overall aim of the project is to provide a compassionate and effective response to people in distress, making it more likely that they will engage with and stay connected to services or support that may benefit them over time.

A Distress Brief Intervention is a time limited and supportive problem solving contact with an individual in distress.  It is a two-level approach.  DBI level 1 is provided by front line staff and involves a compassionate response, signposting and the offer of referral to a DBI level 2 service.  DBI level 2 is provided by commissioned and trained third sector staff who contact the person within 24-hours of referral and provide compassionate community-based problem-solving support, wellness and distress management planning, supported connections and signposting, over a period of up to 14 days.


  1. Who will provide the DBI and where?

From November 2017 until March 2018 the programme will operate on a trial basis in Inverness. During this period Police Scotland will provide DBI Level 1 support and make referrals to the Level 2 DBI specialist team. From March 2018 the programme in the Highlands will be expanded so that A & E, Scottish Ambulance Services and Primary Care (including out of hours services) will be involved as well as Police Scotland.


  1. Who is the DBI for?

Distress is being defined as ‘An emotional pain for which the person sought, or was referred for, help and which does not require (further) emergency service response’. The initial test period will focus on people aged 18 and over. DBI does not replace existing arrangements for anyone in distress who requires further medical treatment; it is an additional option for frontline staff making referrals.


  1. Background to the programme

 The DBI approach emerged from the Scottish Government’s work on the Suicide Prevention and Mental Health strategies[1]. The need to improve the response to people presenting in distress has been strongly advocated by people who have experience of distress and by front line service providers, and is supported through a review of available literature[2].

This led to the Scottish Government establishing a pilot DBI programme, which is hosted by Health and Social Care North Lanarkshire (H&SCNL) and South Lanarkshire Health & Social Care Partnership (SLH&SCP).

The new Mental Health Strategy for Scotland 2017 - 2027 reaffirms the commitment to DBI through the inclusion of action 11, "complete an evaluation of the Distress Brief Intervention Programme by 2021 and work to implement the findings from that evaluation 4". 


  1. How is the programme being co-ordinated?

Governance: A DBI central team has been established by the host organisation. The Scottish Government has established a national DBI Programme Board and each of the four partnership sites has established DBI Implementation Boards. This structure will ensure that key stakeholders are involved and that local provision is embedded and connected with, and respectful of, related and complimentary programmes.

Evaluation: To evaluate the effectiveness of the approach the Scottish Government will be commissioning an independent evaluation, informed by an evaluablity assessment completed by NHS Health Scotland[3].

 Intervention, support & training: The University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health & Wellbeing is leading a systematic programme to develop the DBI and supportive training in preparation for the implementation phase commencing June 2017.

[1] Scottish Government (2012) Mental Health Strategy for Scotland 2012-2015, Edinburgh:  Scottish Government (  Accessed 9 August 2016); Scottish Government (2013) Suicide Prevention Strategy 2013 – 2016, Edinburgh: Scottish Government ( Accessed 9 August 2016).

[2] (under Commitment 1).

4 Scottish Government (2017) Mental Health Strategy for Scotland 2017-2027 – A 10 year vision, Edinburgh: Scottish Government (ISBN: 9781786526144).