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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Lifeline Canberra anticipates crisis support line Christmas surge

Having seen a 100% increase in calls from Canberrans in high-risk situations in 2020, Lifeline Canberra is anticipating an additional spike in demand on their crisis support line during the Christmas/New Year period.

Calls to their crisis support line increased nationally this year, up from the pre-COVID average of 2,000 a day to 3,000 a day.

Lifeline Canberra director of crisis and preventative services, Mandy Larsson, told Canberra Weekly she anticipates that to increase another 15-20% over the Christmas and New Year period.

“Demand really increases between Christmas and New Year and often that’s being lonely at Christmas, or it’s ‘I spent Christmas with family, and it didn’t turn out too well’,” Ms Larsson said.

“Then come New Year, people face a lot of financial challenges where credit card bills are coming in and people feel the heavy weight of those.”

According to their own forecast, Lifeline anticipates those elevated national rates will hold through 2021.

“It’s a guessing game, but with mental health and impact of mental health we’re looking at at least two to three years of a flow-on effect,” Ms Larsson said.

Locally, crisis support line call rates mirror the national rise, but Ms Larsson said there’s been a “huge increase”, especially in the thick of COVID, of Canberra callers in high-risk situations where they were “suicidal themselves or in a situation of domestic violence”.

“Where we had to reach out to emergency services and support the callers that way, for us that increased over 100% on normal levels,” Ms Larsson said.

“We’ve found that level of distress then has an impact on crisis supporters too, they’re dealing with a lot of pain … they have to have a lot of support.”

With recent travel restrictions in place for Greater Sydney, many of Lifeline Canberra’s 300 crisis support line volunteers are now available over the Christmas/New Year period.

Lifeline Canberra has the capacity in their phone room to have 10 crisis supporters on at any time.

“On Christmas Day we have a great lot of people coming in and doing shortened shifts, coming in to give up Christmas to talk to those in our community who really have no one and are isolated.”

During the 2020 festive season, Canberrans are encouraged to make a connection and show kindness.

“Whether that be a neighbour or a friend, picking up the phone and giving someone you know who may be lonely a call, that’s such a gift,” Ms Larsson said.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 on 13 11 14.

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