Lifeline Records Busiest Text Month Ever
Crisis helpline Lifeline Aotearoa’s text support service recorded its busiest month ever in April with more than 30,000 texts sent and received.
This follows a previous record set in March of 27,000 texts sent and received.
Both figures are higher than during last year’s lockdowns when text traffic peaked at 25,000 per month.
According to Presbyterian Support Northern (PSN), which operates Lifeline Aotearoa, the figures represent a growth in the number of text conversations, mainly involving young people aged between 11 and 20.
PSN professional practice lead Dr Fiona Pienaar says the increase in text conversations reflects both an increase in people texting Lifeline and higher complexity.
“Some people may send in 10 texts, while others may have complicated issues that require longer text conversations. The top issue we saw reported in April was relationship challenges, such as with families, peers and relationship break-ups, followed by suicide risk, and anxiety or depression.”
Dr Pienaar says that while there does not seem to be an immediate trigger for the increase, the effects of the pandemic and uncertainty about the world and our young people’s future in it, can cause stress at home, school and in the community.
“On top of this, young people today have to deal with constant pressure from social media, online bullying and rising competition for jobs.”
In 2020, Lifeline’s texting data showed 60% of people using the service were between the ages of 11 and 20 while only 10% of the same age group used the phone service.
Calls to Lifeline’s phone services also continue to be high with the monthly average consistently being around 10,000 calls.
“Clearly there is a high demand for our services and it’s not showing any signs of decreasing. It’s a positive sign that young people are reaching out, seeking help, and communicating in a format that they feel comfortable using. While we are doing all we can to answer texts and calls in a timely manner, family and friends can also lend their support,” says Dr Pienaar.
Lifeline is entirely funded by donations, which can be made online through its website: www.lifeline.org.nz.
Lifeline Aotearoa recommends the following 10 tips to help friends, family and colleagues support loved ones facing challenges.
Ten tips for a supportive conversation
1. Listen, listen, listen. Listen without interrupting for longer than what might feel normal, even if it results in a few silences. Silences give space for someone, particularly someone in distress, to gather their thoughts and say what could otherwise be left unsaid.
2. Breathe calmly to help you manage any anxiety you may be feeling. People can sometimes pick up on the energy of others, so by remaining calm you will help the person you’re supporting remain calm.
3. Reflect back (in your own words) what they’re telling you, for example, “It sounds like you're very worried about school.”
4. Don’t assume or say that “you know how they feel” - even if you think you’ve been through something similar. People range in their responses due to differences in personality, backgrounds, experiences and current situations. Simply asking how they are feeling can help you to understand them.
5. Be a supporter not a rescuer. It can be tempting to jump in with strong advice, especially when the solution seems clear to you. But it is more helpful to let them come up with a solution themselves, for example, “What is something that might make you feel better?” or "What have you done in the past to cope when you've had challenges like this?" or "What do you need right now?"
6. If helpful, offer to check in with them later. Supporting an emotional person can sometimes feel like running a marathon - it’s good to have breaks. If, however, you’re worried about imminent risk, it’s best to make sure they’re not alone or are supported by someone else, such as a Lifeline counsellor.
7. Showing aroha can sometimes have a calming effect. Make a cup of tea, help them to put their feet up with a good movie, perhaps spend some time with them if possible. Something that shows you care.
8. Be compassionate and non-judgmental. Try to be open minded and kind in your responses.
9. Remember you’re a friend, not a counsellor. Keep your boundaries in place. Leave the difficult tasks to the highly trained counsellors at Lifeline or seek out support around you.
10. If you’re concerned about someone’s wellbeing or safety, suggest they call 0800 LIFELINE (0800 54 33 54) or text HELP (4357). While you could offer to call for them, especially if they are unable to do so themselves, ideally, they make the call (or send the text), so they’re speaking directly to a counsellor and getting the support they need. Of course, in an emergency call 111.