Lifeline’s 50th anniversary

The phone used to take the first Lifeline call in 1963.
The phone used to take the first Lifeline call in 1963.

Went to 50th anniversary of Lifeline, for ex-Lifeline vollies. I was involved for a year in the early 2000s. It was harrowing, once took 4 suicidal calls in one shift.
John Brogden is Lifeline chairman and credited the organisation with saving his life. He was Opposition Leader, with a chance of being Premier, and had had a quick rise to the top. But suddenly everything seemed grim and suicide seemed like the best choice.
Another bloke, Ivan Reicheit, 96, was with the original Lifeline team and recalled how he went out with the Trouble Team (when Lifeline rushed out to stop people jumping off the Harbour bridge). “We got to a man’s house and he was flat on the floor and we couldn’t get in. Luckily, a kitchen window was slightly ajar and I prised it open and climbed over the sink. He was a mature man who owned several menswear shops and he’d lived with his mother, who’d recently died. He said, “You men have everything.” But Ivan said they felt they were nobodies, next to this successful businessman. They waited with him until an ambulance arrived.

Rev Dr Keith Garner said 11,000 Lifeline volunteers took 540,000 calls last year, but there are 800,000 callers trying to get through. They pay for overnight vollies now. But they need many more. 2000 people killed themselves last year. “How many did we save?”

He said the biggest problem is alcohol, then other temptations and despair/despondency. “Many people can testify to the speed of calamity that can overtake us in life.” He mentioned a family who needed to sell their home, only to discover it was built on a coal seam and was uninhabitable. After a year living in a hotel, they needed help. “Many look for security in the wrong places. There is only one security which never passes away.” (Lifeline is now non-religious, but was founded as a religious group.) Lifeline was started in Sydney and is now in 11 other countries. They also run a a gambling helpline, credit line and kids helpline. Lifeline: 13 11 14.

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