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Think Local

The latest Bureau of Statistics figures show that the national suicide rate is at the highest it has been in 13 years. It's a similar story on the Northern Beaches with call volumes to Lifeline's 24-hour suicide crisis line rising dramatically over recent years.

 Lifeline Northern Beaches CEO David Thomas explains that the figures are alarming and indicative of the financial and social pressures people are finding increasingly difficult to navigate.

 "While we are currently able to provide positive, life-changing support services to individuals and families living in crisis, our resources are stretched to the limit" he says. "It is our community supporters who have enabled us to really make a positive impact at the grassroots level.

"9.00am Upon arriving at Lifeline Northern Beaches headquarters, I attend an Accidental Counsellor workshop. The program is designed to help individuals recognise others who might be struggling and how to support them as they cope with their situation. These courses are run for the public as part of Lifeline's goal to equip the greater community with the tools to effectively manage a crisis. "We want to encourage help-seeking behaviour and contribute to building and maintaining a healthy, positive and resilient Northern Beaches community across the social spectrum," explains David Thomas.

1.00pm The training course has concluded and I enjoy lunch with some staff members. Our conversations mainly focus on Lifeline's upcoming community events. Some events have broad appeal, such as 'Lunch for Lifeline' and a Christmas Raffle. While others aim to raise awareness on the importance of self-care, such as the World's Biggest Laugh Yoga Class.

1.30pm Next I tour the Book Room. Preparations are underway for the next book fair in February when more than 1000 boxes of books will go on sale. Book fairs are a main fundraiser for the organisation and the revenue generated from sales helps fund the Crisis Support Line. These events only come together thanks to a monumental volunteer effort.

2.00pm We head off for a bit of retail therapy. With stores from Cremorne to Avalon, Lifeline's shops have something for everyone. The stores are staffed by a team of dedicated volunteers and are well stocked with a range of treasures from books and bric-a-brac to clothes and accessories. Balgowlah even has fancy-dress hire!

4.00pm I enter the hub of Lifeline Northern Beaches, the 24/7 call centre and counselling rooms. In 2015, this centre alone answered 55,000 calls and the counselling rooms facilitated 1000 counselling sessions. The shift supervisor for the call centre tells me,"Lifeline's more than 50 years of answering calls from people in crisis shows us that care, compassion and connection are key barriers to suicide."

5.00pm As my day draws to an end at Lifeline, their work continues - it knows no end. The phones will keep ringing and the dedicated team of Telephone Crisis Supporters will continue to help those in distress. As David Thomas concludes, "It's important to remember that it's OK to have a mental health problem. If you broke your leg you would seek help, so if you think you are suffering from stress or anxiety, be brave and speak up. It's worth it."

Lifeline Northern Beaches is fuelled by the support of volunteers. There are numerous ways that individuals can contribute to the organisation and the meaningful work they do. Phone 9949 5522 or email to register as a volunteer.

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