The COVID-19 pandemic has taken an unprecedented toll on the mental health and wellbeing of Australians, and with many young and Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples turning to text to find support, it’s important that a full suite of crisis support services are available for those in need.
Since COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions began, Lifeline Australia has experienced almost 90,000 calls per month and while phone and chat services are available, funding constraints have previously seen Lifeline Australia limit their number of requests for support through Lifeline Text to 80 crisis interventions per day, leaving a significant proportion of people vulnerable. This includes those who prefer seeking help via non-verbal channels, or those living in remote and rural communities, who don’t have adequate access to landlines or poor internet connection, vulnerable.
Lifeline’s independent evaluation of Lifeline Text also found that that 42% of people who reached out through text, wouldn’t have sought help in any other way. In addition, 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% of users, despite representing 2.8% of the population in Australia. 40% of users also reported having a disability.
To meet the increase in demand for mental health support and ensure a full suite of crisis support services are available to those in need, nib foundation and nib has teamed up with Lifeline Australia to provide $500,000 in funding support to allow the 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention service to expand their crisis text-based service, Lifeline Text.
The funding will support Lifeline to provide over 10,000 additional crisis interventions in the coming year, as well as help train and manage 60 new volunteer crisis supporters.
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.
By supporting the expansion of Lifeline Text and ensuring a full suite of crisis support services, such as Phone, Chat and Text are available, we hope that no one falls through the cracks and that everyone is given the opportunity to access the mental health support they need, when they need it most.