Master of Arts (MA)


Social Work

Document Type



ABSTRACT This study built on prior research about helplines that focused on descriptive accounts of caller profiles (frequent callers, children callers, male/female, reason for calls, help seeking intentions/beliefs, attitudes and expectations of callers); counselor profiles (active listening skills, motivation, empathy, altruism, family peer advocates); and helpline profiles (advantages and limitations of telephone, chat rooms, emails, and texting). The intention of this study was to assess the needs of the organization in order to build a helpline that meets the needs of the clients. It assessed existing data from calls made to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) New Orleans where staff members handle approximately 1000 calls and emails yearly from individuals with mental illness, their families, or loved ones. For six weeks during the fall of 2015, NAMI staff logged incoming calls to their de facto helpline and the existing data was analyzed. Emails and Facebook queries to the agency were also included in the analysis. Findings indicate that most people called to have someone listen to their concerns and provide support. In terms of type of callers, most callers were family members of persons living with mental illness. Individuals living with mental illness were the second most frequent type of caller. Family members called more frequently than other types of callers and women called three times more than men. The support provided to callers was mainly referrals to NAMI New Orleans support and/or education groups and then to outside agencies. Those who referred callers to NAMI were principally from the internal (support groups) and external (media) realms of NAMI New Orleans, although it was often not known who referred the calls. The duration of calls and the types of referrals made varied greatly by the responders, or those who logged the calls, however, the mean call duration of 8.9 minutes was close to the industry standard. Implications for practice and policy are discussed showing suggestions for ways to work with family members in order to accommodate their need for support; for providing volunteer recruitment, orientation, and training; and for creating a call-response decision tree.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Livermore, Michelle



Included in

Social Work Commons