LIFELINE, the organisation that provides access to crisis support, suicide prevention, mental health support services and financial counselling has celebrated its 50th birthday.
Established in 1963 by the late Reverend Sir Alan Walker, Lifeline now operates from more than 60 locations around Australia.
Locally, Lifeline South Coast receives 14,000 calls a year from residents in the Illawarra and South Coast.
Established in Wollongong in March 1969 with the Nowra branch opening in 1981, Lifeline South Coast now operates with more than 300 volunteers providing telephone crisis services and financial counselling to local residents in need.
Executive director of Lifeline South Coast, Grahame Gould, who oversees both the Wollongong and Nowra operations, said the organisation’s role was now more important than ever.
“We live in a complicated world where sometimes people have a sense of isolation,” he said.
“Many people don’t necessarily have someone to talk to, to move through things – that’s where Lifeline can come in.
“Our role is more important than ever – stress in relation to depression appears higher and while suicide levels may not be getting higher they are not going down either.”
The Nowra office, which has staff rostered on peak times including from 8pm to 2am and Sundays, takes more than 4500 calls each year, which is twice the national average.
“The Nowra office operators answer about twice as many calls, and that’s not just calls from this region but nationwide and that is because the office is always open in peak demand times,” Mr Gould said.
Locally the Nowra office has just staged a successful volunteer recruitment campaign for telephone counsellors.
“We started that new course last weekend,” Mr Gould said.
“This course is a little different – it is being conducted on Saturdays as we were recruiting people to work weekends, which are our demand times, particularly Sundays.
“We received strong applications for this course, which is fantastic.
“But we are always keen to hear from any potential volunteers.”
In the first week of Lifeline in March 1963, 350 calls were answered.
In January alone this year, Lifeline answered 55,000 calls from Australians in crisis – 28,000 of those calls came from NSW.
In 2012, Lifeline responded to 541,000 calls on its 13 11 14 service and by 2016 it is expected Lifeline will answer a million calls a year.
Somewhere in Australia there is a new call to Lifeline every minute.
People call Lifeline’s 24 hour crisis support service about many things including anxiety, depression, loneliness, abuse and trauma, physical or mental wellbeing, suicidal thoughts or attempts, stresses from work, family or society or information for friends and family.
Lifeline also provides national services and campaigns that promote emotional wellbeing, encourage help seeking, and address suicide prevention and awareness.
South Coast MP Shelley Hancock congratulated Lifeline on its 50 years of operation.
“I extend congratulations to all Lifeline staff and volunteers, particularly members of South Coast Lifeline who continue to contribute to our community in so many ways,” Mrs Hancock said.
“Lifeline continues to live up to its name. It now operates from 15 centres in NSW and 41 centres nationally, located in every state and territory.
“I’m pleased the NSW Liberals and Nationals government has boosted support for Lifeline by providing $2 million annually in recurrent funding to support its work.”
A not-for-profit organisation, Lifeline relies on community support.
Lifeline provides crisis support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you need any of Lifeline’s services call 13 11 14 or to donate to Lifeline call 1800 800 768 or you can donate online.