The announcement was made by the coordinator of the Serviços Partilhados do Ministério de Saúde – SNS 24 Unit, João Oliveira, who stated the psychological counselling line is “one of the services, in terms of percentage, that has grown the most in SNS24”.

“The psychological counselling line was created in a very specific context, under great pressure, especially on health professionals, and it is a line that is here to stay due to greater demand”, said the coordinator.

To date, the line has answered more than 257,000 calls, the majority from patients but also from some health professionals, this service emerged due to concerns about the impact of the pandemic on mental health.

This SNS24 line is available every day of the year, with care provided by clinical psychologists, “the service will be reinforced, improved and expanded, in its scope of action, together with the governmental response in the field of mental health”, João Oliveira announced.

“During the pandemic we were focused on how it affected us, in terms of mental health, however, in this post-pandemic era we have been able to gather more information, the situation is not so good”, he lamented, pointing out cases of loneliness, anxiety and also the “pressure people have in their daily lives".

The process of adapting this line to the new demands that arise is being carried out with the Ordem dos Psicólogos Portugueses, which “has been a fundamental partner in this service”, highlighted João Oliveira.

“We are studying the data, together with the Ordem dos Psicólogos Portugueses and our understanding is, whether in certain situations, instead of being a one-off monitoring, we should continuously monitor the state of the individual”, he said.

Monitoring programme

Although the service already makes some follow-up calls to patients with high-risk mental states, which are done by psychologists, the aim “is to further encourage and reinforce the monitoring program”.

“Calls made to SNS 24 have no limit in terms of duration, however, the most important thing is that patients feel that there is someone on the other end of the line to help them, because all services are interconnected.”

“This type of response cannot be a one-off response, there has to be continuous follow-ups, especially to avoid overloading emergency services that are often sought out for mental health reasons", said João Oliveira.

In emergency situations, which psychologists identify as a danger to patients and to third parties, the call is transferred to INEM, ensuring that the appropriate means of assistance are activated.

The psychological counselling service is integrated into the SNS 24 telephone line and aims to support in various situations, such as acute anxiety, psychological fragility and psychological illness.