Thursday, 23 March 2023
Reception for Lifeline Australia 60th Anniversary
Rod and I are delighted to welcome you to Government House to recognise the 60th Anniversary of Lifeline in Australia and to thank the South Australian staff and volunteers.
We especially welcome those who have travelled some distance to be with us today.
This is the first time we have engaged with Lifeline, and are pleased to do so, as mental health is one of our shared priorities during my term as Governor.
As you would all be aware, Lifeline had humble beginnings, being founded in March 1963 by the Rev Dr Sir Alan Walker OBE after he took a call from a distressed man who later, sadly, took his own life.
Determined not to let isolation and lack of support be the cause of more deaths, Sir Alan started what was later to become Lifeline’s 24/7 telephone crisis line.
The humanity displayed by Sir Alan has been at the centre of Lifeline ever since, because you care.
Because you are there when people are reaching out at their lowest times; times of immense emotional pain and anguish.
It’s a tragedy that nine Australians die of suicide every day and that more young Australians aged 15-44 die from suicide than any other cause.
It is sobering to know that 44% of Australians may experience mental illness at some point in their life.
But it is heartening to know that Lifeline is there to listen and help Australians through their challenges 24 hours a day, whether that’s financial pressures, relationship issues, isolation, depression, substance abuse, bullying, gender identity or other overwhelming demands.
A testament to the level of respect you have in the community is the number of times at the end of harrowing media stories there is often an invitation for those needing mental health support to contact Lifeline.
On its first day, Lifeline answered more than 100 calls.
The very first call came from a young woman who had just lost her boyfriend and wanted to talk to someone. It was answered by Eric Adam, a railway engineer and friend of Dr Walker.
Since that call, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing.
The statistics demonstrate the overwhelming need for Lifeline and its active engagement in tackling mental health.
In 2022 Lifeline received more than 1.1 million calls and more than 250,000 text and webchat messages.
More than 95,000 South Australians reached out to Lifeline last year.
COVID-19 drove Lifeline’s busiest days and call volumes are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels.
I commend Lifeline for establishing 13YARN a year ago, providing the first national support line for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people in crisis.
For all this and more, Rod and I congratulate Lifeline’s staff and volunteers for your outstanding, demanding and at times, difficult work.
I thank the more than 500 volunteers and 57 staff who operate the three Lifeline centres in this State and the board and staff for their vision, dedication and training of volunteers.
It takes a special person with a big heart to step forward and say: I want to help people at a time of their deepest stress, trauma or grief.
You are there at a moment when you can give someone respect, care and consideration of being worthy of being listened to.
You are there, at times, to save someone’s life.
That takes generosity of spirit and compassion for others.
Thank you for being a Lifeline for so many over the past 60 years, and indeed for all.