Published by guardian.co.uk
Photo: Girish Gupta
NHS Stressline has been set up to help tackle rising levels of anxiety and distress caused by increasing unemployment and record levels of personal debt.
Ringing the helpline will cost no more than a national rate call to an 01 or 02 number.
The move is the latest expansion of the government's programme of "talking therapies", which are designed to use intensive one-to-one support to alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. The same approach is already deployed to help some of the long-term unemployed get back into work, and from next year, will be offered to couples who are undergoing relationship difficulties.
The scheme has been running since July as a pilot programme with trained health advisers listening and offering sympathetic and relevant support and advice. Jacqui Jedrzejewski, NHS Direct's mental health lead, cited two cases where people had been helped to regain control of their situations.
"There was a 49-year-old man who had just lost his job and felt unable to tell his wife, so continued to act as if he was going to work every day whilst secretly contemplating suicide. And a 28-year old woman who was stressed and anxious about her mounting debt due to a cut in her hours at work and felt she didn't have anywhere to turn," she said.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity MIND, welcoming Stessline, said: "Money worries and fears about job security have the potential to trigger mental health problems like depression and anxiety. When people are faced with piles of bills and deep emotional despair, the future can seem bleak and it can often be difficult to know where to turn for advice."
According to the Department of Health, one in six people have a mental health condition, costing the country £77bn a year, £26bn of which is from lost employment.
• The NHS Stressline is 0300 123 2000. It is open 8am-10pm daily.