Department of Health and Human Services

Information for health professionals

The following information will help you understand how the mental health advice line can assist your clients.

Frequently asked questions

What is the Mental Health Advice Line?
Mental Health Advice Line is a state-wide Victorian phone service that provides expert advice, information and referral on any mental health issue 24 hours 7 days a week.

The service is available from any landline in Victoria for the cost of a local call or mobile phone at standard charges.

Why has the Victorian Government established this service?
The Victorian Government recognises that navigating the mental health service system can be difficult and people do not always know the best care option to meet their needs.

The Mental Health Advice Line provides Victorians with easy access to professional mental health advice, information and referral, anytime of the day or night. It complements Victorias existing mental health services, public hospitals and emergency services.

What type of mental health professionals will be managing the calls?
The Mental Health Advice Line is staffed by Registered Nurses, Registered Psychologists, Occupational Therapists and Social Workers based in Victoria.
How will the mental health professionals manage the calls?
If someone calls with symptoms of a mental health problem, the professional will provide a screening-level assessment (basic triage) and based on that assessment, provide a recommendation on the ‘right care in the right timeframe’. The mental health professionals have access to up-to-date health information and service directory information to refer callers to appropriate services in their locality.

The recommendation may be that the caller is:

  • Transferred through to 000
  • Advised to attend their nearest Emergency Department
  • Transferred through to their local Area Mental Health Service triage number (with consent)
  • Advised to see their usual health care provider (for example their general practitioner or psychiatrist) within a certain timeframe (for example within 4 hours, within 24 hours or within 72 hours)
  • Or if the symptoms or problem is assessed as mild, they may be referred to other services such as community health services or advised they can manage their problem at home with some home care advice if they have appropriate support.

The mental health professional will also provide advice and information about other services appropriate to the callers enquiries. For example, the telephone number for face-to-face counselling resources, advocacy services or the number for a crisis line.

Is this service designed to replace the existing triage services within Area Mental Health Services?
No. It is not intended to be a single point of access to mental health care. General practitioners and Area Mental Health Service triage services (amongst others) will still provide alternative avenues to access the right care and treatment for a mental health problem. Mental Health Advice Line will refer people with mental health problems to these existing services for further assessment and management where appropriate.

Referrers, such as police and general practitioners requiring urgent assessment for a person in psychiatric crisis or who want to discuss a possible specialist mental health response should still contact the appropriate Area Mental Health Service triage service.

How will urgent referrals be made to Area Mental Health Services?
Callers requiring an urgent referral to an Area Mental Health Service (AMHS) will be transferred to the AMHS triage service by the mental health professional. If a triage clinician is not immediately available, a report of the call encounter will be faxed to the appropriate AMHS for the AHMS to follow-up. If the mental health professional determines that a person requires further support, the professional may make outbound calls to that person to reassess risk and provide support until the AMHS referral and follow-up has been confirmed. Records of these call encounters will also be faxed to the AMHS to assist follow-up and ensure continuity of care. The professional will continue to provide support to the person until a call to the local AMHS has occurred. The AMHS will then make contact with the person directly for assessment.
How will referrals be made to other services within the community?
Callers referred to any other service (apart from urgent referrals to Area Mental Health Services or 000) will be given the service information and asked to contact the service themselves.
Will this service increase the number of referrals to Area Mental Health Services?
No. The Mental Health Advice Line will support Area Mental Health Service triage services by reducing the number of referrals that do not require a specialist mental health service response. It is envisaged that many people will be referred to other services more appropriate to their needs, for example general practitioners or other primary health care providers, or given mental health information. As awareness of the Mental Health Advice Line grows, the specialist mental health triage services will be freed up to focus on responding to Victorians in psychiatric crisis.
How quickly will the calls be answered?
Mental Health Advice Line is committed to answering most calls within 30 seconds. However, at times of high demand callers may experience a short wait during which recorded information about mental health will be heard. Callers will be prompted to call 000 if their call is an emergency.
Will callers speak to an automated voice recognition machine before they speak with a real person?
No. A short pre-recorded message will advise callers of their privacy rights when contacting the Mental Health Advice Line and then the call will be answered by a mental health professional. During periods of high demand, callers may be placed in a queue, but generally calls will be directly answered by a mental health professional.
What details will Mental Health Advice Line collect on the caller?
Basic demographic information such as full name, date of birth, street address and phone number, as well as current health status. All information provided remains confidential and medical records are fully secure. Callers may remain anonymous if they wish.

Mental Health Advice Line is delivered by Medibank Health Solutions, which also delivers NURSE-ON-CALL. It is recognised that some callers will previously have contacted NURSE-ON-CALL which is also funded by the Department of Health. Therefore, to ensure continuity of care, the mental health professionals will also have access to records of any previous calls to the NURSE-ON-CALL service. Callers will be advised via a pre-recorded message which will be heard before the call is answered by a mental health professional. The privacy policy is available from Medibank Health Solutions.

What are the operating hours?
Mental Health Advice Line operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year, including public holidays.
Will an interpreter / relay service be available for use?
Who can access the service?
This service is for all members of the Victorian community of all ages.
Is this service run anywhere else in Australia?
There are other telephone services offering information on specific mental health and wellbeing issues. But this is the first service of its kind in Australia. The Mental Health Advice Line is the only mental health telephone service where all Victorians are able to obtain mental health information, advice and referral across the broad spectrum of mental health issues.
Who is the service provider?
The Mental Health Advice Line is operated by Medibank Health Solutions, an organisation with extensive experience operating telephone triage, health advice, counselling and referral services in Australia and New Zealand.
What will happen to other health help lines like beyondblue, Lifeline, SANE and PANDA?
These services will continue to operate in conjunction with the Mental Health Advice Line. Callers may still choose to seek advice from these specialised services or to ring Mental Health Advice Line. The Mental Health Advice Line will refer callers to these other health services if appropriate. The service provider, Medibank Health Solutions, will meet with all of these services to establish agreed protocols and call referral arrangements.
What happens if you are concerned about the advice given to a caller?
Medibank Health Solutions is an ISO accredited organisation with comprehensive quality management processes. Six monthly surveillance audits are required with a full independent certification audit every 3 years.

Medibank Health Solutions is committed to delivering a high quality service and values your feedback regarding the Mental Health Advice Line. If you wish to make any comment about the service please call 1300 280 737. All complaints are investigated by clinicians who are trained to investigate any matter that may present a risk to the service or to the people who call it. Feedback will be provided to you if you wish. If you are not satisfied with the response, you can refer the matter to the Health Services Commissioner on 1800 136 066 (toll free).

Why is it important to update your organisations entry in the Human Services Directory?
The Mental Health Advice Line uses the Human Services Directory to make referrals and provide callers with information about health services. The accuracy of the data in the directory is critical.

Updating the Human Services Directory is a quick process. If your service is already listed, check the details are correct. Include the following information to ensure your service can be located as quickly as possible by the Mental Health Advice Line professional.

The sections that are critical for the Mental Health Advice Line are:

  • Agency name and site name
    XYZ Health Service – XYZ Health Service A; XYZ Health Service B
  • Operating hours
    Include all hours of operation
  • Service type – please be as specific as possible
    For example, if you are a ‘hospital’, list the service as ‘hospital’.

New services can easily be added to the Human Service Directory. If you would like to find out if your service can be added to the directory please contact:

Sonya Robinson
Phone: (61 3) 9320 9070