Throwing a Lifeline to distressed

LIFELINE has celebrated its 48th birthday by releasing a social data booklet with an analysis of calls to the 24-hour crisis phone line 13 11 14.

Lifeline telephone counsellor Lyn Anderson said Reverend Dr Sir Alan Walker switched on the first Lifeline phone at 5pm on March 16, 1963, not knowing if anyone would call.

“Within seconds the old fashioned Bakelite phone was ringing with Sir Alan’s first crisis caller,” Ms Anderson said.

“Since that first contact, Lifeline has assisted millions of Australians during times of crisis, saving countless lives and changing the face of telephone support here in this country.

“To honour him, we are releasing to the public a snapshot of the calls we take. Typically, people call us in crisis, when changes in their lives have increased their levels of distress to a point where their ability to cope is significantly hampered.”

The analysis found the most frequent issue in a call to Lifeline was ‘family and relationships’ – showing that often when an individual was in crisis so too was a family involved in crisis. The next most frequent issue is ‘health and disability’ – mental health being of primary concern.

‘Self and community’ was the third most frequent issue as many of the people calling Lifeline did not feel they had someone else to talk to about their situation and 52% of callers were people living alone.

The analysis showed a relationship between employment and personal wellbeing as 41% of callers were not in the labour force.

Forty thousand calls each year were from young people under the age of 24 and 6% of calls were suicide related.

One third, or 150,000, of Lifeline’s calls each year come from men.

One quarter of callers said they were being treated for a mental health issue at the time they phoned Lifeline, with 48% of female callers being treated for depression.

“The data shows that Lifeline plays a vital role in the Australian community by providing an immediate link to help for those Australians who are vulnerable and in crisis,” Ms Anderson said.

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