Lifeline’s Alex Ferguson longs for a festive season where he can say that volunteers at the Lifeline 131114 had a quiet Christmas with lower calls. Unfortunately last year wasn’t it.
Demand for the service at Dubbo and across the wider region was high as people struggled to deal with stress and issues including overwhelming loneliness during a time that is widely regarded as an opportunity to get the family together.
Mr Ferguson, the executive director of Lifeline Central West, said he was immensely proud of the work done by volunteers and happy the service is available for those who need it but there will be a time when the need is gone.
“As with other years, the demand for Lifeline 131114 services were strong over the Christmas period and like other years, Christmas Day showed solid demand,” Mr Ferguson said.
“It’s a good thing that people are calling us when they need us but I would love to see stories about drops in calls and low demand, as long as they are for the right reasons.
“I would be quite happy if operators spent Christmas Day playing cards and having a quiet one but we aren’t there yet.”
Mr Ferguson said rather than talking about the value of Lifeline, a broader discussion on how to reduce that need has to take place.
“I think that while there are still stigmas and we try to overcome those, the number of calls will continue to grow,” he said.
“Christmas isn’t a family occasion for everyone. Some people use it as a chance to reflect on their life and they don’t always like it. The role Lifeline plays is to try and help people work through it.”
Mr Ferguson said society needs get better at recognising and dealing with mental health issues including isolation.
“If you are lonely during the busiest time of the year, it makes sense that you are going to be lonely when everything shuts down and people go to their families,” Mr Ferguson said.
“Amongst the statistics that Lifeline Australia has, is the figure that 60 per cent of all calls to Lifeline come from people who live alone.”
“That’s not to say that everybody who lives alone is lonely but there is a large group who aren’t doing it because they want to, and are classed as lonely.”