Volunteers keep Lifeline open

Marlborough Lifeline staff will be answering phones on Christmas and New Year's Day.

Lifeline Marlborough clinical manager Vienna Lucas said eight volunteers would be at their Blenheim office offering telephone support to people from all over the country while other people celebrated.

For the poor, the lonely and people who had gone through relationship breakups, the festive season could be an unhappy time, Ms Lucas said. In December, Marlborough Lifeline staff answered 12.5 per cent more calls on average than at other times of the year.

For people on tight budgets, the season of giving could be stressful, Ms Lucas said.

Relationship breakdowns was the main reason people rang Lifeline. Equal numbers of men and women called, mostly aged from 40 to 60.

Men especially could become suicidal after a relationship ended, and self-harm was common in women, especially if there was no one around to help them cope.

People with mental health issues were the second biggest group of callers, Ms Lucas said. Lifeline offered 24/7 help and, in a crisis, was able to call in help from the police or an emergency mental health team.

Some lonely individuals called regularly, simply wanting a chat.

Children and teenagers were most likely to call Kidsline out of Auckland or What's Up but some did ring Lifeline, Ms Lucas said. This age-group made the odd prank call but each caller was taken seriously in case a genuine problem prompted them to ring.

About 20 Blenheim Lifeline volunteers took close to 3000 calls a year from all over New Zealand, Ms Lucas said.

People ringing the service from Marlborough would be directed to other parts of the country. For people living in small communities, it could be reassuring to know that they were unlikely to be talking to someone they knew, said Ms Lucas.

Lifeline also ran a free service for people who were living alone, ringing them once a day to check they were OK.

The Blenheim team were aged from their late 20s to 80s and many were in fulltime employment.

"It takes a special person to work the phones," Ms Lucas said.

CALL FOR HELP

Lifeline: 0800534354

Kidsline: 0800543754, 4pm-6pm on weekdays

What's Up: 08009428787, noon and midnight every day for anyone aged 5 to 18.

The Marlborough Express