Lifeline counsellors to meet with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in Wellington

Lifeline representatives will be meeting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, on Monday 29th October in Wellington during their upcoming tour of New Zealand.

Attendees from Lifeline will include volunteer telephone counsellor, Victoria Kendall, who lost her father and grandfather to suicide; Year 13 student, Leroy, who has been volunteering as a Kidsline buddy for 12 months, and Lifeline’s Clinical Manager, Renee Matthews. 

Victoria commented: “We have such different lives, and at the same time, we share an interest in mental health and helping others. So I feel we can connect on a personal level.” 

Talking about her experience as a Lifeline Telephone Counsellor, Victoria says, “I’ve learned how much of a power for good you can be when you just stop and connect with somebody—and that connection can be at a deep level in a short space of time. That’s massive.” Lifeline Aotearoa receives no government funding for its 0800 helpline so is reliant on public support to be able to answer calls and the generous efforts of volunteers like Victoria and Leroy.

When asked how her Lifeline training has helped her personally, Victoria added “I’m so fortunate that I trained with Lifeline when I did because it really changed the grieving process for me. I felt like I was doing something that was meaningful and my dad would be so proud of me. Something good has come from something so awful.”

The meeting with Meghan and Harry came about after Lifeline extended an invitation to Kensington Palace during their recent national fundraising campaign, The 72 Club

Clinical Manager, Renee Matthews said “Prince Harry and Prince William have been so open about mental health in recent years, and this support has gone a long way to destigmatise the subject globally. We hoped the Duke and Duchess would be interested in our service, and in particular how Kidsline trains teenagers to support younger children through difficult times.” 

In addition to phone calls, Lifeline provides support via text messaging. Commented Renee, “We’re seeing increasing numbers of young people texting us. Our last quarter showed 2,400 text conversations and 65% of these were from under-20-year-olds.”

Kidsline Buddy Leroy, a Year 13 student, is keenly aware of how his voluntary work is needed for his generation. “I reckon for boys, we’ve grown up with ideas like we’re not supposed to share our feelings, so we keep them bottled up. I’m hoping this will change when more of us volunteer.”

Leroy added “My callers are between 8 and 13, and it’s mostly everyday things like relationships. That’s good because it stops all the smaller things getting bigger.” He commented “I’m using my skills outside of Kidsline too. I used to be a scout leader and there was a bullying incident where one boy got quite upset so I sat down with him and talked through how he was and how I had similar experiences. That helped him feel better”. And what does Leroy think about meeting the Duke and Duchess? “I’m looking forward to saying I’ve met royalty! And I’ll get the chance to tell them about Kidsline, too.”

Asked how Lifeline Executive Director, Glenda Schnell felt about Lifeline’s front-line staff meeting the Duke and Duchess, she commented “It’s a genuine privilege for our younger volunteers to meet Meghan and Harry. We hope the volunteers will be able to share stories of the transformations they have played a part in creating.  We know Lifeline training changes volunteers’ lives, the people they help, and those close to them. I feel very proud.”

The meeting with the Royals comes in the closing weeks of Lifeline’s national fundraising campaign The 72 Club and a recent announcement about its fee for service Zero Suicide Workplace programme for corporates.