Alcohol firm to fund Lifeline mental health charity programme

  • 07/10/2018

New Zealand's biggest alcohol company has partnered with mental health helpline Lifeline Aotearoa to launch a new charity programme.

Lion NZ, whose brands include Speights, Corona, Isaac's, Lindauer and Johnnie Walker, has announced the Zero Suicide Workplace Scheme to help Kiwi companies.

But the move is controversial, with some saying it's "disingenuous" for an alcohol company to sponsor a mental health scheme.

Lion NZ says the programme will advance businesses' health and wellbeing strategies, build resilience among employees and provide them with suicide awareness skills.

But some say it's a conflict of interest because of the relationship between alcohol and mental health.

Alcohol harm reduction advocate Richie Hardcore told Stuff a lot of people suffering from depression use alcohol to self-medicate.

"Or you can have a problem with alcohol that could lead into depression. There's a two-way street there."

In 2015 the Government funded a $1.2million 'Not Beersies' campaign encouraging Kiwis to drink water during the summer rather than beer.

Lifeline executive director Glenda Schnell says Lion NZ was chosen because of their current "well-established employee mental health and wellbeing platform".

"They also employ around 1200 people in NZ, giving us the chance to trial the program with a diverse and large workplace."

Ms Schnell told Stuff that while she understands the association between mental health issues and alcohol misuse, the partnership offers Lifeline a chance to develop Lion's existing services.

"With no government funding for Lifeline's community helplines, this program will provide another revenue stream to ensure it can continue to provide this essential service," the charity said in a statement.

In August, the coroner revealed 668 people died by suspected suicide from July 2017-June 2018. It's the fourth year in a row the number has increased, and 10 percent more than the previous year's figure of 606.

In the 2018/2019 budget the Government has allocated $200m for mental health.

The Zero Suicide Workplace Scheme is expected to extend to other businesses around the country from March 2019.

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