WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A LIFELINE VOLUNTEER?

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WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A LIFELINE VOLUNTEER?

By Renee Bogatko

269 people called Lifeline Canberra for help on March 4.

That’s 269 people in just one day – and according to Life Canberra’s CEO, Carrie-Ann Leeson, that’s about their daily average.

Callers ranged from mums wanting advice on their kids getting bullied at school, to serious domestic violence related matters.

So, how do they deal with such an influx of calls every day?

Around 800 amazing Canberrans put time aside in their busy schedules to work as volunteers for Lifeline Canberra.

While that sounds like a lot, they could always do with more hands-on deck!

Nationally, Lifeline receives around 1,000,000 calls each year and around 85% get answered.

“With more volunteers and more resourcing and funding to train them, we can get to more people in crisis,” Ms Leeson said.

50 Canberrans were the latest batch to undergo the intensive training process – they are now equipped to answer calls from Lifeline’s crisis support line.

Lifeline Canberra offers classes one night a week for three months, or there’s a two-week full-time option.

It doesn’t come cheap for the organisation – with the cost to train one volunteer adding up to about $10,000.

“It’s quite an investment but it needs to be adequate, it needs to be as substantial as a diploma or degree, because you need that amount of information and confidence before you answer the phone for the first time,” Ms Leeson said.

“The training is intense, but it does equip you more than adequately to manage every single type of call and of course we’ve got support in the phone room and on the phone throughout your shift.”

So, what type of crisis situations are volunteers confronted with?

“It could be anything from mental health, anxiety attacks and depression, it could be crisis, someone who’s struggling with the loss of a loved one or who’s in financial distress or who’s trying to think through their sexuality or gender issues,” Ms Leeson said.

“Then you’ve got safety calls which could be a child ringing in a domestic violence situation or someone who’s in the process of completing suicide.”

If being a crisis worker doesn’t suit you, Lifeline Canberra’s always looking for volunteers in other roles too.

For example, some volunteers help by sorting books at the warehouses, while others spare time to help at the Bookfairs.

“At the warehouse, you just need the time. It’s the same on the phones. If you’ve got empathy and you’ve got the time, you’ll nail it,” Ms Leeson said.

For those who are interested in working the phones, once you become accredited as a crisis supporter, you need to volunteer at least four hours a fortnight to maintain that accreditation.

Lifeline welcomes volunteers with all sorts of backgrounds, ranging from students studying psychology to retirees.

The organisation also has an anonymous feedback service.

“We get the most beautiful comments. One I received was a caller saying to us that they don’t know what their future holds, but now they have one,” Ms Leeson said.

“One which stuck with me is a lady who sent through a thank you letter which said you saved three lives that night. It was a mother contemplating a murder suicide. Feedback like that makes everything we do so worth it.”

If you’d like to become a volunteer, send the lovely staff at Lifeline Canberra an email to tcsvolunteerenquiries@act.lifeline.org.au, or give them a call on (02) 6171 6300.

Or if you need help, call the crisis support line on 13 11 14.

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