Hello Sunday Morning: Interview and podcast with Dominique Robert-Hendren

January 17, 2023

Hello Sunday Morning and Daybreak: Helping to Change Relationships with Alcohol

Hello Sunday Morning was born from an experiment. In 2009, former nightclub promoter Chris Raine decided to quit drinking alcohol for a year and he began to blog the challenges and successes that he was experiencing. Chris would reportedly wake up on Sunday mornings and the first thing he would say would be: “Hello Sunday Morning!” He felt good waking clear headed and without the usual weekend hangover. Chris’ blog gained popularity as others started sharing their own stories and a strong, supportive community emerged. The blog subsequently turned into a moderated online platform for people who were considering changing their relationship with alcohol. Today, Hello Sunday Morning, or HSM as it is sometimes referred to, is a vibrant, thriving online hub, with more than 120,000 registered members.

Dominique Robert-Hendren is head of clinical innovation and digital health at Hello Sunday Morning. She is responsible for the clinical digital health elements provided in service delivery and design, ensuring services are  of a high quality, and making sure the organisation is bringing in innovation by creating and developing services, products, and programmes that will meet member’s needs.

Clinical safety is prioritised at Hello Sunday Morning. Informed by research that shows that around 70 percent of people experiencing problems with alcohol will also likely be experiencing some psychological distress, HSM aims to provide a psychologically safe forum for clients. Online moderators are put through competency training, there is a risk register, and an escalation policy. Dominique says HSM also takes pride in including member’s voice in services, products, and programs that are codesigned with members so “it’s not only what science tells us, but also what the people are telling us they need”.

Daybreak is a peer led app created by HSM and moderated by clinicians. It’s a forum where people can come together and share their experiences along their journeys with alcohol. People come in at different stages: some make a commitment to quit drinking, others want to moderate, and some are curious to find out if they actually have a problem in the first place. Users can be directed to other services if that’s what they want. It’s anonymous, so people can come in freely and don’t feel that they’ll be exposed or criticised. Hello Sunday Morning aims to destigmatize problematic drinking and encourage people to seek help. Dominique says people often suffer silently because they feel they’re going to be judged, but alcohol is a big problem globally, and so it is important to normalise conversations around it.

Hello Sunday Morning has undertaken external and internal research to ensure they are constantly evaluating and updating their methods and approaches. Their research consistently shows that over 70 percent of people who sign up for Daybreak are moderate to high risk for alcohol dependency, which is a different picture to what they expected. Close to 70 percent of members are females between the ages of 35 and 60. This concentrated cohort, says Dominique, are typically educated professionals and parents providing valuable support for one another. HSM believes prevention and early intervention is key, so part of their strategy is also to appeal to a younger audience and encourage them to get help – even if it’s psychoeducation around drinking behaviours- and to get them engaged with the platform earlier.

Lived experience is a big part of HSM’s strategy and something they are proud of. Dominique says as a clinician, she can “rattle off all the stats”, but people struggling with alcohol are always going to be more open and more comfortable with someone who has walked in their shoes. Although not everyone at HSM has lived experience, it is something they are mindful of and endeavour to embed in the workforce. People with lived experience also provide a strong voice at the corporate level and are involved in decision making. HSM also have a clinical team delivering psychoeducation tips and strategies.

In March this year, HSM launched an online self-assessment tool. Dominique is excited about the pilot program and says over 15,000 people have used the service, which is also anonymous. In the portal, clients are asked a range of questions about their behaviour in terms of alcohol use as well as psychological wellbeing, looking at things like depression, anxiety, and stress. Clients receive personalised feedback which can then be used to take the next steps to other services if that’s what they desire. Research is in the preliminary phase, but Dominique says they are seeing a significant difference. A high proportion of participants have recorded improvements not only in a reduction in alcohol consumption, but also in their level of distress. Furthermore, according to Dominique, many participants also accessed other online modules available on the HSM site, as well as links to external support services for alcohol, or what Dominique calls the “alcohol ecosystem”.

Dominique stresses it is important that everyone in the community has information around alcohol and its potential harm. She says the health impacts on people such as cognitive functioning, liver, and heart disease are mostly common knowledge and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that we should all limit our drinking. However, it is also important to consider the harm that someone’s drinking causes to other people and society at large, such as relationship breakdowns, drink driving accidents, and other impacts that can often create a “ripple effect”.

Listen to the podcast:

LiverWELL · Dominique Robert-Hendren – Hello Sunday Morning


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