Since the nationwide lockdown began, Lifeline has experienced a 25% increase in calls and texts from people in distress. On May 4 alone, Lifeline fielded 493 calls – thought to be the highest volume of enquiries in any single day in the helpline’s almost 55-year history. Contacts via text are increasing exponentially, with up to 1,500 texts being received on the busiest days.
Even as New Zealand comes out of lockdown isolation, inbound requests for mental health support have remained steady; Lifeline will require a significant increase in resources to support the expected influx in the next six months.
To service this growing need, leading health insurer, nib and its charity the nib foundation, have boosted Lifeline’s funding by $150,000 so its helpline can continue operating 24/7.
Lifeline Clinical Manager, Renee Mathews says “The impact of the pandemic will be felt long after the initial health crisis is over. It is vital we ensure Lifeline can support as many Kiwis as possible. We know first-hand that so many people are going through hardship or facing difficulties during this time.
“We rely solely on donations and grants, so the support provided by nib and nib foundation will go a long way in helping us help New Zealanders through this. The nib grant will assist us to increase phone counsellor hours, provide additional training, expand supervision to call centre staff to support them to maintain their own mental health, and help to ensure we have the right capabilities in place to operate effectively.”
Lifeline currently has 190 trained volunteers and 56 helpline counsellors who operate as the frontline helpline staff. It also trains around 100 volunteers a year, who make up 40% of its workforce.
nib foundation Executive Officer, Amy Tribe says “We recognise the great work Lifeline does in providing a safe, confidential and free service to New Zealanders 24/7, so we are proud to partner with them to provide even more support to those in need.
“The pandemic has affected many peoples’ work, livelihoods, living situations, relationships and general levels of stress, so services such as Lifeline are more important than ever in these challenging times. We hope they can continue to deliver effective services to support the emotional and mental wellbeing of our communities.”
In 2019, Lifeline received more than 115,000 calls and 170,000 text messages. Lifeline counsellors further assisted 2,668 people through the creation of safety plans. During Alert Level 4 lockdown, Lifeline provided an additional 800 hours of phone counselling and helped thousands of people with their wellbeing.
The grant to Lifeline is part of nib’s COVID-19 member and community support package announced in April to help Kiwis through this challenging period and follows the support announced last month, with local med-tech, Clearhead, also in the mental health space. More information about the initiatives supported is available on nib.co.nz.
Lifeline Aotearoa’s helpline and textline provides 24/7, confidential support from qualified counsellors and trained volunteers. Call 0800 543 354 or text 4357 if you or someone you know is in distress.