30 June 2016

Lifeline Aotearoa fighting for survival

Lifeline Aotearoa today announced it only has enough money to run for one more year. 

By 30 June 2017, all available sustainability reserves and funds from a new mortgage on its Auckland property will be exhausted. It has restructured and is appealing for public support in an effort to keep offering its critical services to Kiwis in crisis. 

Lifeline Aotearoa has operated consistently in New Zealand since 1964. It has become an iconic and trusted service providing 24/7 helplines and low-cost counselling to people in crisis. It is staffed by a mix of paid clinical experts and volunteers, all of whom have undergone world-class training.

Lifeline helplines answer up to 15,000 calls per month on a raft of issues including loneliness, family violence, financial concerns, homelessness, bullying and relationship issues, mental health and suicidal thoughts. 

While there are numerous other helplines, none have the expertise of Lifeline in regard to suicide, crisis, peer-support and other counselling. 

It is also the country’s most significant specialist provider of suicide intervention and training and, as such, is on the frontline of suicide prevention in New Zealand.

Despite the life enhancing, and potentially life saving, service it undertakes, and unlike similar Lifeline organisations around the world, Lifeline Aotearoa does not receive any Government funding for its 24/7 helplines. 

It’s current financial position is the result of the loss of contracts to the Government’s new Telehealth Service, which has impacted on the organisation’s ability to fund its 24/7 helplines. 

Lifeline Aotearoa Board Chair Ben Palmer says appeals to Government for funding assistance were rejected. 

“We made the tough decision to cut a number of positions, including many of the management team, and our CEO will now work part time. Critically, we have ensured Lifeline can continue to operate its 24/7 crisis lines staffed by professionals and highly trained volunteers.

“Unfortunately these changes only buy Lifeline another year. In that time the Board will do whatever it can to try and secure the funds Lifeline requires annually to remain open, including launching further public support campaigns.”

Mr Palmer says with the well documented crisis in mental health and the New Zealand suicide rate reaching epidemic proportions, the Lifeline service has never been more critical. 

“564 Kiwis died by suicide last year, the highest number on record and nearly double the annual road toll, which stood at 321. For young New Zealanders, particularly Maori, suicide is the leading cause of death. 

“Sadly, it’s estimated for every person who commits suicide 40-100 people attempt it. 

“It’s a shame the Government places little priority on people in crisis. This is starkly highlighted by the $600 million it has allocated to bringing down the road toll (an additional $360 million over 6 years). 

“Interestingly the Government is prepared to invest $666,667 per person saved from road death or serious injury - 900 people - over 10 years. In that time, based on current numbers, 5,640 Kiwis may die through suicide. How much additional money is the Government prepared to invest for them?"

Mr Palmer says suicide and attempted suicide represent a significant social and economic burden in New Zealand. 

“Every call Lifeline answers lessens that burden and decreases the demand on other services like Police and Emergency Departments, not to mention the ACC costs associated with suicide attempts. 

“We are in no doubt Lifeline is far too important to New Zealanders in crisis to simply disappear. We are New Zealanders’ lifeline,” says Mr Palmer. 

Anyone who would like to support Lifeline can go to www.lifeline.org.nz to make a donation. 

Inquiries:    Kiri Hannifin 021 815 519