Introduction: Historically, 911 professionals have not received specialized training in dispatch and call management related to mental crises and suicidality. This lack of training may contribute to lack of confidence and elevated anxiety in successfully handling these call types. A new model of training, Emergency Mental Health Dispatching™ (EMHD), which aims to equip 911 professionals to manage these calls has been developed to address this need.
Objective: The objective of this case study was to measure the impact of EMHD via two specific aims. The first aim was to determine if EMHD training changed dispatcher self-reported levels of confidence or anxiety related to these call types. The second aim was to assess post-EMHD changes in self-reported effectiveness in handling suicide calls.
Methods: Our case study used a retrospective email-based survey design with data collected from calltakers who had recently been certified in EMHD and trained on use of the extended protocol LifeBridges FlexProtocol™. Self-reported Likert scales were utilized to assess calltaker confidence, anxiety, and effectiveness metrics. Changes in these metrics were explored via Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon tests (α = 0.05).
Results: In total, 26 participants completed the survey (response rate: 66.7%). Comparing pre-training and post-training, average confidence in handling general mental crises increased from 2.54 to 3.92 (p < 0.001). Average confidence in handling suicide calls increased from 2.12 to 3.89 (p < 0.001). Average level of anxiety in handling calls from those struggling with general mental crises decreases from 2.89 to 2.46 (p = 0.2005). Anxiety in handling suicide calls decreased from 3.15 to 2.31 (p = 0.0064). All measures of effectiveness increased in a statistically significant manner (p < 0.001).
Conclusion: This study provides strong preliminary evidence that focused formal clinically-informed training can improve confidence and effectiveness of Emergency Medical Dispatchers handling mental crises and suicide calls.