Combined text and call helpline to assist mental health crunch

A new text and phone number is being launched to make it easier for people to connect with mental health and addiction professionals.

'Need to Talk? 1737' is free to call or text, from any landline or mobile phone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

National Telehealth Service clinical lead, Dr Kristin Good, says rather than picking between different helplines the 1737 number is open to anyone.

"This could be relating to bullying, it could be relating to depression, suicide, relationship break-ups, so it's actually to cope with anyone with any psychological distress or social distress," she told Newshub.

"We know that in every four-week period, 6 percent of New Zealanders have experienced some form of psychological distress and only half of those people access help, and a lot of them don't know where to go to get that help. We're hoping to change that," Dr Good said.

The National Telehealth Service launched in 2015 and consolidates a range of health-funded helplines including Healthline, Quitline, immunisation and poisons advice to the public, the depression helpline, and other mental health and addiction lines.

In the six months from October 2016 to March 2017, there were more than 286,000 contacts to the National Telehealth Service, including:

  • Healthline: 149,612
  • Depression Helpline: 15,209
  • Alcohol Drug Helpline: 6658
  • Gambling Helpline: 2419.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says the four-digit number is designed to be easier to remember and attract a wider range of people to access help.

"It's a new and easy way to access the existing National Telehealth Services provided through the Alcohol and Drug, Depression, and Gambling Helplines," he said.

"These helplines will still be accessible through the same phone numbers, but 1737 creates a new front door.

"The same trained mental health professionals who currently respond to calls, texts, webchat and emails across the existing National Telehealth Service mental health and addiction helplines will be on hand to support people who call or text 1737."

Mental health services are under increasing demand, but Dr Good hopes this will help.

"There are some gaps, and we're working to address those, we see that this service actually fills one of those gaps," she said.

"It fills a gap that's actually present in primary care, where general practitioners have difficulty accessing a level of service."

They currently receive around 2000 calls a day and hope the new line will encourage more people to reach out for help.

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.