Lifeline needs a lifeline on its 60th anniversary

10 May 2024

This year, Lifeline turns 60. That’s 60 years of being on the end of the phone for people in mental health distress and in the worst case, at high risk of self-harm or suicide.

Six decades of supporting people from all walks of life and of all ages who are in crisis or have clinical mental health issues or are facing major challenges. Lifeline also supports people who are having trouble coping with relationships with partners or family or cost of living demands or who are simply lonely.

However, Lifeline now needs its own lifeline to help cover its annual running costs, which are about $3.78 million.

The timing could be better. Thousands are losing their jobs. The cost of living remains high. Now is the time when we need to be able to increase services to those struggling with mental health or who are suicidal.

Lifeline is part of Presbyterian Support Northern’s social services group, which also includes Shine and Family Works. We are a charity that provides support for those living with family violence, advice on budgeting and parenting, and local food support.

Lifeline, which celebrates its 60th anniversary in June, and the Tautoko suicide crisis helpline, receive 7000 - 8000 calls a month. We also receive and send around 20,000 texts per month, mainly from people aged under 30. 

On average, 17 people at high risk of self-harm or suicide call Lifeline every day.

We know that Lifeline is the key service people think of when they are in mental distress or have suicidal thoughts. Many of those who call say they have never called a helpline before. They don’t know of any other support.

When Chris (not her real name) called Lifeline from the top of a carpark building, she had lost all hope and was suicidal. She was a young person who had recently lost a relative and faced challenges with her studies when she finally reached out for help.

Our highly experienced counsellor was able to reassure her and get help. In this case, the police arrived and were able to look after and wrap support around her.

Lifeline’s younger texters start texting when they get home from school. With parents working long hours, young people are likely to be home alone for long periods with no one to talk to about their problems at school. Or they are suffering from bullying and need someone to turn to when they get home.

Lifeline plays a critical role in helping fill the gap in primary mental health support by providing free and confidential 24/7 support.

Mental health solutions need mates. Acute services don’t stand alone.

They need friends like Lifeline to support the large numbers of people needing support to work through their issues.

If people don’t get the early support they need, their mental distress can potentially exacerbate into a long-term mental health condition, which puts stress on more acute services.

Lifeline is the only service we operate that does not receive Government funding, yet it is a crucial frontline service that saves lives like Chris’s every day.

We raise about $1 million a year from donations towards the $3.78 million annual running costs of providing this service. Presbyterian Support Northern covers the rest as part of living our mission - to enable positive change in our communities by providing high-quality services that achieve results. However, this is not sustainable long-term.

The number of people contacting Lifeline continues to put pressure on our ability to resource Lifeline. That said, there is a very clear and overwhelming need that is neither fully met nor funded elsewhere.

In our 60th year, Lifeline is encouraging supporters to participate in a birthday challenge or donate directly to Lifeline.

We need to ensure Lifeline continues to be a reliable, reassuring presence helping people through what may be the most difficult times of their lives.

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