Funding boost for 24/7 SMS suicide prevention service

By Melissa Coade

February 7, 2022

sad-sms-text-depression
Lifeline gets an extra $1.5 million for its SMS text support service. (methaphum/Adobe)

With demand for Lifeline crisis support reaching a record 3,700 calls in one day, the federal government has given the suicide-prevention service an additional $1.5 million to expand its SMS text support.

More people can now reach out to Lifeline’s confidential SMS support line, any time of the day or night, by messaging 0477 13 11 14. After answering a few questions via text, clients will then be connected to a trained support counsellor.

In a statement announcing the funding, health minister Greg Hunt said Lifeline’s expanded services offered more help to Australians struggling with life pressures exacerbated by the pandemic. The funding comes after a record in January, with Lifeline fielding 3,700 phone calls in one day.

“The significant surge in demand for Lifeline’s services during COVID means more people are reaching out for help, and services like Lifeline are there to help,” Hunt said.

“The expansion of the text service is backed by data showing that it is the preferred channel for high-risk members of the community, including young people, those experiencing family and domestic violence, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Last year the crisis-support line took more than 1 million calls, with Lifeline increasing its average call answer rate to 90.4%. A total of 51,265 SMS text conversations were also processed during that same period in 2021 as part of a two-year pilot of a limited text support service.

David Coleman, the assistant minister to the PM for mental health and suicide prevention, said the government was committed to Lifeline’s work, ensuring no person was alone in their time of greatest need. The SMS service was particularly good at reaching younger people who were more comfortable seeking help via text, he added.

“The government remains committed to working towards zero suicides, backed by our $2.3 billion investment in mental health and suicide prevention in the 2021–22 Budget, and our ongoing support for Lifeline as Australia’s leading suicide prevention agency,” Coleman said. 


READ MORE:

Report shows 1 in 5 Australians touched by suicide this year

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