On 16 March 2013 Lifeline celebrated 50 years of suicide prevention services in the Australian community.
The idea of a crisis line, later to be called Lifeline, originated on a Sunday night in early 1960 after Rev Dr Sir Alan Walker, then Superintendent of Wesley Mission, took a phone call from a distressed young man.
“This is Roy speaking,” said a quiet voice on the other end of the line. “You don’t know me, but can I speak with you a few moments, I have just written you a letter, which you will receive on Monday morning. By that time I will be dead. I’m sorry to worry you but there is really nobody who cares what happens to me.”
The loneliness and desperation of this suicidal man, later found dead by Darlinghurst police, along with many similar experiences, prompted Sir Alan to take action to prevent suicide.
Determined not to let isolation and a lack of support be the cause of more deaths, Sir Alan began planning a 24-hour crisis support line, which would operate from Wesley Mission in Sydney’s CBD.
At 5pm on the 16th of March, 1963, the first call was taken from a distressed young woman on Lifeline’s crisis line, a service born out of the social change that had embraced Australia in the 1960s.
In its first week of operation Lifeline received 350 phone calls on its crisis support line which swelled to more than 15,000 calls in its first year.
Lifeline has continued to grow over the ensuing 50 years and now operates from 41 Centres throughout every state and territory in Australia.
The demands on Lifeline’s 13 11 14 crisis line, and other services, continue to climb.
“Last year Lifeline answered 541,000 calls which is the highest number in its history and we expect this number to grow in 2013 and beyond,” John Brogden, Lifeline Chairman, said.
“Lifeline’s endurance is due to the wonderful contribution of volunteers and staff, past and present, who have positively impacted on the lives of 100s of thousands of Australians over the last 50 years.”
“Lifeline’s contribution is worthy of celebration, however with 2,272 deaths in Australia by self-harm, much more needs to be done for people in crisis given our belief that suicide is preventable.”
“Sadly, the more calls we answer the more we get.”
“More than 200,000 calls to Lifeline went unanswered last year due to ever increasing help seeker demands and we project calls to 13 11 14 will surpass 1,000,000 within the next three years.”
“In 2012 Lifeline launched Crisis Support Chat, an online equivalent of 13 11 14, to reach out to even more Australians in a medium comfortable to them.”
“As Lifeline continues to innovate and service more help seekers than ever before, I remind everyone that our existence is entirely possible due to the generosity of Australians, governments and our corporate friends and I use this occasion to ask everyone to dig deeper as we strive towards our vision of ‘an Australia free of suicide’.”
Today, Lifeline services are provided by 12,000 volunteers and staff nationally, however Lifeline wouldn’t exist without the original vision of the Wesley Mission back in the early 1960s.
“Wesley Mission is delighted to be able to celebrate Lifeline’s 50th anniversary and to pause and give thanks for the lives that have been saved by its volunteer phone counsellors,” the Rev Dr Keith Garner, CEO of Wesley Mission, said.
“Sydney in the early 1960s had become a lonely and dispiriting place for many people,”
It continues that commitment today through Lifeline Sydney and Sutherland.
Lifeline asks for your support as we look forward to servicing the Australian community over the next 50 years.
Currently, our Lifeline Community Recovery Officers are working in communities across Queensland to help communities affected by Ex-Cyclone Oswald. As the immediate support draws back, Lifeline is committed to staying with communities to work with them on their medium to long-term recovery. We do this by implementing community development projects, providing subsidised training, conducting suicide interventions and establishing long-term counsellors in schools or communities where needed. Help us continue to provide this support, donate to the 2013 flood appeal today.
To enquire about volunteering please visit www.uccommunity.org.au/volunteer. For more information on Lifeline and its history please go to www.lifeline.org.au/ and http://www.wesleymission.org.au/200years/Pages/History_of_Lifeline.html.
Lifeline services in Queensland are operated by UnitingCare Community. Services include the Crisis Line 13 11 14; Suicide bereavement and prevention individual and group support; and Lifeline's disaster recovery program, Community Recovery. Accredited and non-accredited training direct to the public and the industry sector is also available.
UnitingCare Community operates these programs with the funds raised at over 130 Lifeline Shops in Queensland. The corporate and community sectors also provide support, with a small group of loyal donors who provide regular income to sustain these essential services into the future. If you would like to help us help others you can make a monetary donation donating online or call 07 3250 1934.
Please do not call the number above if you would like to make a donation of clothing, furniture or household items, please see our statewide shop listing for details on how to donate. You can phone directly the Brisbane Warehouse on 3632 1010
UnitingCare Community operates several Bookfest events across Queensland. Find out when the next Bookfest is closest to you.
Calls to Lifeline's 24-hour 13 11 14 Crisis Support Line come from all over Australia about every possible situation, at any time of the day or night.
Lifeline is dedicated to the prevention of suicide in Australia and to raising awareness about suicide and the help-seeking options available.
For those affected by disasters or events, our Community Recovery Program provides support, assessments and referrals; immediate psychosocial and ongoing counselling and support to individuals and communities; and financial counselling including referrals for business.