Lifeline Australia expands text service with nib support to reach people in need during COVID-19

Lifeline Australia expands text service with nib support to reach people in need during COVID-19

Lifeline will be able to boost services to young Australians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through text crisis counselling with the support of a $500,000 donation from nib health funds (nib) together with nib foundation.

With demand for support substantially increasing during the pandemic, the funding boost will help expand Australia’s first text (SMS)-based crisis support and suicide prevention service.

Through Lifeline Text, more people in need will be able to access the support they need with the alternate service.

Lifeline Australia Chairman, John Brogden, said nib’s foundation comes at an important time when mental health is even more important to keep tabs on with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are extremely grateful to nib and nib foundation, their support comes at a crucial time for Lifeline,” he said.

“Australians are turning to Lifeline more than any other time in our 57-year history, with calls to Lifeline’s 13 11 14 crisis line at record levels throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The service has received almost 90,000 calls per month, since the COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions began.”

“Lifeline Text helps complement our well-known phone service, but due to funding constraints we’d been limited to 80 Text crisis interventions per day, leaving a significant proportion of people vulnerable,” he added.

“We want every person to have the option to access our services if they need it, through the avenue that’s most comfortable for them. We’ll now be able to offer 10,000 additional crisis interventions on top of our other crisis support services and will train 60 new volunteer crisis supporters.”

nib Managing Director, Mark Fitzgibbon, said the health insurer was proud to support the expansion of Lifeline Text to help ensure a full suite of crisis support services are available to those in need.

“We know that COVID-19 is having a monumental impact on the mental health of our community placing additional pressure on our healthcare system as well as support services,” Mark said.

“We don’t want anyone facing their troubles alone which is why this support is needed now more than ever.”

Introduced in response to research that found 30 per cent of Australians prefer to access support via short form messaging, such as text, Lifeline Text is accessed in higher rates by youth, those who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people living with a disability and the LGBTIQ+ community.

More than half of people seeking help via Lifeline Text are aged under 24 years, while Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples make up 5.5 per cent of users, despite representing 2.8 per cent of the population in Australia.

In addition, 40 per cent of users reported having a disability.

“Importantly, 42 per cent of people we surveyed said they would not have sought help in any other way which is why it’s vitally important that we ensure Lifeline Text is as accessible as possible at this time, particularly as our country is going through great change and uncertainty,” John said.

The extension of Lifeline Text will also help support those living in rural and remote communities, who don’t have adequate access to landlines or internet connection.

Increasingly, these barriers are often experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and with suicide rates almost double that of their non-Indigenous counterparts, access to mental health support services through a range of avenues is crucial.

“As a health insurer, we believe its paramount to support critical services like Lifeline, so that every person, who is doing it a little tough at the moment, can seek the help they need in the way that best suits them,” Mark said.

nib has also donated $30,000 in television advertising airtime to Lifeline, so they are able to share their messages with more Australians who may need help, during prime-time television.

The funding support is part of nib and nib foundation’s $1 million commitment to ensuring communities across Australia and New Zealand are supported during the COVID-19 pandemic.

IMAGE | nib partner with Lifeline to provide support to people in need through Lifeline Text service.

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