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Satisfaction and Mental Health Outcomes Associated with a Large Regional Helpline

Sean R. McClellan, Meaghan Hunt, Lauren E. W. Olsho, Amrita Dasgupta, Mifta Chowdhury, and Alicia C. Sparks: Abt Global


January 19, 2022

Behavioral health helplines help individuals who may not use other behavioral health services or who need immediate support. Studies of helplines have found high customer satisfaction and suggest short-term reductions in suicides, distress, and hopelessness.

Researchers know less about the long-term effects.

In this study for the New York City Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity), Abt surveyed users of NYC Well, a 24/7 behavioral health helpline, roughly two weeks after contacting the helpline and again six months after to assess user experiences and changes in psychological distress, factors associated with user experiences, and mental health outcomes. The study found that behavioral health helplines can offer beneficial services to diverse populations, complementing the formal behavioral healthcare system.

The findings include:

  • 89 percent of respondents reported that contacting the helpline helped them deal a little or a lot more effectively with their problems
  • Rates of psychological distress decreased from 41.3% two weeks following helpline contact to 29.0% six months after
  • Improvements in psychological distress occurred across a range of demographic characteristics and increased most for repeat users
  • Users reported broadly positive experiences with the helpline and improved psychological distress six months later.