People living in Surrey and North East Hampshire can now access specialist mental health advice and support round the clock – with the launch of a new and improved NHS helpline.

The Mental Health Crisis Helpline is an NHS telephone service run by Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Lines are manned by trained call handlers who support local residents who are concerned about themselves, or a friend or relative, in mental health crisis.

Previously only an evening and weekend service, the helpline is also now supported by qualified mental health practitioners, such as a social worker, mental health nurse or an occupational therapist, who provide expert support and work closely with the Surrey and Borders Home treatment Team to help adults of all ages access urgent face to face assessments if needed.

Additional call handlers have been recruited to increase capacity and all staff have completed a new training package which has been designed especially for the service.

The service has also been co-designed with people who use services, carers and representatives from health and care organisations.

Larisa is a volunteer who uses her lived experience of mental ill-health to support others to recover and represents the voice of people who use services in Surrey and Borders decision-making.

Larisa said: “Picking up the phone and calling a helpline can feel like your last hope so it is so important to hear a compassionate voice who will ask if you’re ok and listen to the feelings behind people’s words.

“You can’t teach or learn empathy so I took part in the recruitment panels to help the Trust choose people who have the right values as well as the right qualifications to support people in crisis – people who not only ask the right questions but speak to people in the right way. Being involved in this work has also helped my own recovery. It has made me feel proud and it has given me hope.”