Lifeline Tasmania’s Chief Executive Officer, Debbie Evans, says volunteers continue to be vital to the operations of Lifeline during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Currently we have around 200 volunteers giving their time generously through our 13 11 14 crisis phone line and staying connected with older Tasmanians who are socially isolated,” MS Evans said.

Crisis Support Volunteer, Belinda* says she has been a volunteer on Lifeline’s 13 11 14 phone line for more than six years.

“I commenced my training with 13 11 14 in 2014 and I applied because I wanted to be involved in supporting people suffering from mental health problems.

“Since being a Crisis Support Volunteer it has helped me to broaden my perspective and understanding of people and I feel I have a deeper empathy for others,” Belinda said.

During the coronavirus pandemic Debbie says that in April, Lifeline answered almost 90,000 calls for help, an increase of 25% over the same time last year - equating to one call every 30 seconds.

“Currently approximately fifty per cent of phone calls to our 13 11 14 phone like are COVID-19 related.” Debbie explained.

Crisis Support Volunteer, Belinda says she has answered a large number of calls coronavirus related since the pandemic was declared.

“In the last two months I have spoken to a lot of people who have had more time on their own, so they have had more time to think. In this time they appear to have become more reflective on their life and their relationships.”

In addition to 13 11 14, Debbie says Lifeline Tasmania has volunteers donating their time from their homes ringing isolated older Tasmanians via the Chats Program.

“Chats is a social support program that traditionally offers a large variety of social activities each calendar month, providing transport and opportunities to get out of the house, meet new people, share new experiences and develop friendships for older Tasmanians experiencing social isolation.

“During the pandemic we have had our staff and volunteers reach out to our Chats participants and ringing them regularly simply for a chat or laugh to ensure these individuals remain connected,” Debbie said.

Jane* has been volunteering for the Chats Program for the past year and says she is really enjoying making her calls to the Chats Participants, particularly during the pandemic.

“For some of the participants I have rung, I have been the only person they have spoken to for a whole week.

To me, volunteering for Chats benefits both the participant and myself as the volunteer.

“For example, during the Easter break I reached out to one of the participants on Good Friday. This individual was beyond grateful for my phone call, especially on a public holiday. After ending that call I was equally warmed from making the connection knowing I had made a difference in someone’s day during this difficult time,” Jane said.

CEO Debbie says with the temporary closure of Lifeline Tasmania’s 10 retail stores that more than 200 retail volunteers are currently staying home to adhere to the Government’s restrictions during the pandemic.

“To these volunteers, we look forward to welcoming your happy faces back into our retail stores when it is safe to do so. Thank you for all you do to help our retail outlets shine,” she said.

*Belinda and Jane are not the real names of these volunteers. At Lifeline Tasmania the identity of our volunteers is protected due the nature of our work.