Hunter and Central Coast Lifeline locations need to raise close to $500,000 by the end of the financial year

ALWAYS THERE: Lifeline provides Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Picture: Robert Peet.
ALWAYS THERE: Lifeline provides Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Picture: Robert Peet.

IT IS the number we call when we need support in a crisis, but now Lifeline needs a little help in return.

The Hunter and Central Coast Lifeline locations need to raise close to $500,000 by the end of the financial year to sustain the service, Lifeline's regional general manager, Julie Wicks, said.

"Between January and June 2020, I have a half a million dollar target to fill," Ms Wicks said. "That's a lot of money."

Ms Wicks said many people assumed Lifeline, which relies heavily on volunteers, was a fully funded service - partly because its 13 11 14 crisis number appears on most reports about mental health and suicide.

"There is some funding that goes to Lifeline Australia - the governing body of Lifeline. But we are individual centres. So while we get some money from that, it is very little. It is not enough."

Lifeline Australia recently welcomed the federal government's announcement of $1.5 million in funding for "13 HELP" - a new dedicated phone line for people in bushfire-affected communities nationally. But Ms Wicks said that funding would not filter out to local centres.

"Locally, our call rate has increased by 10 per cent due to the bushfires and drought, but locally, we have had no additional funding," she said.

"That's something we grapple with a lot. People might hear about the $1.5 million Lifeline has received nationally, but it doesn't affect us locally... It can dilute our need."

Ms Wicks said the Lifeline Hunter call centre, which takes about 10,000 calls a year, had a running cost of about $400,000.

The "notional" cost of each call to its crisis line was $39. But it was becoming more difficult to raise "substantial funds".

"The fundraising team is very lean and work extremely hard to raise funds to sustain the centre," she said.

"For this financial year, however, we are unfortunately running well below our required income."

Ms Wicks hopes local businesses might sponsor the face-to-face counselling rooms at Lifeline, where people can access help without a referral. Call 4940 2000.

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