On March 16, 1963, Lifeline took its first call. For 60 years we've been there for Aussies in their darkest moments.
Reverend Dr Sir Alan Walker OBE conceived Lifeline after taking a call from a distressed man who later took his own life. Determined not to let isolation and lack of support be the cause of more deaths, he launched what is now Lifeline's 24 hour 13 11 14 crisis support line. The Sydney centre took 100 calls that day and, 23 million calls later, the phone's haven't stopped ringing. The Hunter was only a couple of years behind, taking its first calls in Hamilton.
Lifeline's life-affirming mission to reduce stigma and reduce suicide hasn't changed. We have moved with the times; offering more services and ways to connect with us.
We've never been needed more - receiving over 2.5 million contacts for help nationally each year. Lifeline is Australia's leading crisis support and suicide prevention organisation, providing support, self-help toolkits, mental health information and programs, training and advocacy. Our evidence-led approach is guided by the Lifeline Research Foundation. In the Hunter we offer free face to face and online counselling sessions and assist bereavement support groups too.
As well as being a Lifeline executive, I have the privilege of being a 13 11 14 crisis support volunteer. Across 41 centres nationally there are more than 4000 crisis support volunteers, including 50 in the Hunter. We answer a call every 30 seconds, siting along-side people, listening and offering hope, compassion and connection. Lifeline plays a central role in the lives of many people, increasing in recent years with natural disasters and COVID-19.
Our message is that it's OK to not be OK all the time. Where you can; focus on today, connect with others and trust that small steps can lead to big changes.
It isn't always easy being there for others, which is why Lifeline provides extensive training, mentoring and supervision. Without the tremendous support of our volunteers along with our Lifeline shop volunteers, sponsors, donors, governments, community and business partners, and dedicated staff, we couldn't do what we do.
We need more local crisis supporters to meet the increase in calls since the start of the pandemic. If you can help or fund their training, get in touch at lifelinehunter.org.au or 1300 152 854. With your ongoing support, we'll be here for another 60 years.
Rob Sams is CEO of Lifeline Hunter, Lifeline Central Coast, Lifeline Geelong & South West Victoria, Lifeline Western & Northern Melbourne, Lifeline New England North West North West, Lifeline Northern NSW and Lifeline Central Australia.
If you, or someone you know are feeling overwhelmed, we encourage you to connect with Lifeline in the way you feel most comfortable. You can phone Lifeline to speak to a crisis supporter 24/7 on 13 11 14, text 0477 131 114 or chat at www.lifeline.org.au