Crisis helpline Lifeline Aotearoa is seeing an increase in complex calls as well as a steady increase in overall calls and texts as lockdown continues in Auckland. Calls and texts are up almost 40% compared to level 4 lockdown in 2020, and up more than 80% compared to 2019.
Complex calls involve topics such as suicide, self-harm and risk to others—all valid feelings that get increased in times of intense stress.
Ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day tomorrow (Sept 10), which raises awareness of suicide and promotes preventative action, Lifeline is calling for urgent donations to enable more counsellors to be added to its frontline call centres.
“Our counsellors are talking to thousands of Kiwis who are finding this lockdown the toughest and struggling with lockdown fatigue,” says Lifeline operations manager Helena de Fontenay.
Helena de Fontenay says that during the first week of lockdown Lifeline received about 8500 calls and texts. This rose to 8700 in week two and then 10,900 last week, which is an 80% increase in demand compared to the average contacts made in 2019, before we had heard of Covid-19.
About 12.2% of these calls are complex compared to 3.7% during last year’s lockdown.
“Complex callers have higher levels of need and require more intensive support, which takes time to work through. Our team members at Lifeline are dedicated to ensuring there is good support and safe outcomes for those that call us for help.
“All this puts more pressure on our counsellors, of which some are taking back-to-back high-complexity calls,” says Helena de Fontenay.
“Lifeline receives no Government funding and desperately needs more donations to train more staff to help meet this increased demand.”
“Anecdotally, people are struggling with feelings of isolation and the inability to make changes during lockdown. For example, seeing a doctor is not as easy, self-care strategies are not as effective – you can’t use the gym, go for a swim or connect with friends.”
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Five key strategies
If you think someone is at risk of ending their life or having suicidal thoughts, Lifeline Aotearoa follows an empathetic process using five key strategies:
Connect and build rapport
- Talk with them and let them know that you are there
- Listen without judgment
- Take them seriously.
Try to be calm
- Talking about suicide does not put the idea in their head
- Connect with others if you need support, another friend or family member
- Call Lifeline or Tautoko
- You do not need to be alone in supporting someone.
Focus on your connection with them
- Suicidal thoughtscan be overwhelming and scary – be gentle and compassionate to them and yourself.
Think about what supports they might need
- Help them to find access the support from others, including whanau, community or cultural leaders, or support organisations and professionals
- Do not agree to keep secrets
- Stay with them until help arrives or someone can stay with them.
Decide next steps
- Support them to access professional help, eg, counselling or a doctor
- Connect with a mental health crisis team
- In an emergency call 111.
Supporting someone who is feeling suicidal can be stressful, ensure you have someone you can debrief with. Lifeline (0800 543 354) and Tautoko (0508 828 865) are great services to help you manage those feelings.