A total of 35 new Lifeline crisis supporters have been recruited to meet the record community demand for support in the Hunter and Central Coast region. 

New recruit Tammii Suprano and senior crisis support team leader Jen Hillis. Photo: Supplied

The 35 recruits take the total number of Hunter and Central Coast-based crisis supporters to 134. 

Senior crisis support team leader and trainer Jen Hillis said this was above their average of 24 new local recruits per year. 

“Calls to 13 11 14 are up by 25 per cent, and we are expecting that to continue through the Christmas period, which can be a difficult time for many,” Hillis said.

“The 33 busiest days in Lifeline’s 58-year history were all in August and September, and we are expecting a record number of calls this festive season.

“Sadly, many people who experience mental ill-health continue to be misunderstood.

“As a result, many people have and continue to struggle with problems such as relationship breakdowns, the impacts of COVID-19 and being isolated from family and friends.”

One of the newest recruits is Tighes Hill mum of three Tammii Suprano, who is volunteering to support her community and help her new career as a paramedic.

“COVID-19 has affected a lot of people so much, and there are a lot of mental health issues in the community generally,” Suprano said.

“I have lots of life experience that I thought I could bring to the role and enjoy helping people.

“The Lifeline training is very in-depth, but a simple lesson has been the importance of doing more listening and less talking.”

Suprano, who is in her third year of a Bachelor of Paramedicine at Charles Sturt University, uses her Lifeline training to help her understand the intricacy of crisis support work.

“We are crisis supporters, not counsellors,” Suprano said. 

“Our role is to walk alongside people in their moment of crisis, to sit with them in the mud, not necessarily solve their problems there and then.

“I didn’t appreciate how valuable that can be for someone who is grieving, lonely and can’t see a way forward and doesn’t have someone they can talk to.

“The fact that we are anonymous makes it easier for some people to be open and share their problems and feelings.”

While crisis supporters are mainly volunteers, it costs Lifeline $3500 to train and support each one. 

Lifeline centres have not only seen a higher demand for support services but, unfortunately, a decrease in revenue streams due to its retail shops and fundraising events closed or cancelled due to COVID-19. 

This fall in revenue has made it challenging to operate part of the essential 13 11 14 services. 

While it receives some government funding, local Lifeline centres rely on community support to keep their free suicide prevention services running.

Hillis said each call to 13 11 14 costs around $39 and that any contribution people can spare will make a difference to someone in the community in crisis.

“You never know when you or someone you love will need to talk to one of our caring crisis supporters.”

Information source: Media release

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