Record calls for Lifeline Canberra in July, Red Cross starts new call service in Canberra

Dominic Giannini 7 August 2020
Lifeline crisis supporter

Lifeline Canberra crisis supporters answered a record number of calls in July. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Lifeline Canberra has received a disturbing increase in calls over the last month – exceeding its previous record by more than 20 per cent.

Crisis supporters in Canberra answered 4440 calls in July. Of the callers, 43 were at immediate safety risk and required a response from emergency services. A further 406 callers were experiencing suicidal thoughts and had a suicide plan.

There were also 111 callers who were experiencing domestic violence situations which put them or their families at immediate risk, and seven callers or their children were experiencing issues relating to child protection.

SEE ALSO: Lifeline bookfair finds permanent home at Fyshwick

The sobering figures were released as Lifeline Canberra CEO Carrie Leeson told a Parliamentary committee that the organisation had experienced a 130 per cent rise in crisis calls regarding suicide, child safety and domestic violence requiring emergency intervention in the past year.

The number of people experiencing immediate safety issues also increased by 8 per cent in the same time frame.

Carrie Leeson

Canberra Lifeline CEO Carrie Leeson says the organisation is trying to balance the increasing number of calls with less staff available. Photo: Region Media.

The issue has been compounded by the organisation’s inability to fundraise or train more crisis supporters because of the pandemic.

“We have had a drop off in our crisis supporters being able to physically do shifts and take calls,” Ms Leeson said.

“It has placed an enormous amount of pressure on the organisation. We have had to cancel a number of crisis support training rounds, further impacting on our ability to meet current and future demand.”

RELATED: Calls for more Lifeline crisis supporter volunteers as demand surges

On the same day that Lifeline Canberra released its figures, the Red Cross launched a Wellbeing Call service which is available to all Canberrans to provide locals with support and information about relevant activities and services.

The new service – which is in partnership with the ACT Government – is being conducted by Canberra-based Red Cross volunteers from the ACT Emergency Services and Social Support teams.

Minister for Community Services and Facilities Suzanne Orr

Minister for Community Services and Facilities Suzanne Orr says the new Red Cross Wellbeing Calls can help lonely and isolated Canberrans during the pandemic. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Australian Red Cross Director for ACT Poppy Brown says the service can help tackle the loneliness or feelings of isolation that arise during the pandemic or quarantine periods.

“We know that social isolation can lead to increased stress levels, and that’s why the support offered by our experienced Red Cross volunteers will bring help and links to essential services for vulnerable people at this difficult time,” she said.

“Red Cross has been responding to emergencies for 106 years and COVID-19 is no different. We’re here for the people that need us most. This service will bring comfort to so many people.”

Minister for Community Services and Facilities Suzanne Orr has encouraged Canberrans to register for the program.

“I am pleased that we are able to offer this service during such a difficult time, when it is so important for everyone to feel connected,” she said.

“The Wellbeing Calls has been really beneficial in the past especially for those residents living in rural areas – sometimes these calls may be the only contact some residents have in the whole day.”

Canberrans wanting to register for this service can call 6234 7630 between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm daily or register for a call online from Community Services.

Lifeline provides short-term support for people who are feeling overwhelmed or having difficulty coping or staying safe. For confidential one-to-one support with a trained Lifeline telephone crisis supporter, call 13 11 14.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call triple zero (000).

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