Lifeline's partnership with Lion sparks controversy

Lifeline Aotearoa's new charity partnership with New Zealand's largest alcohol company has sparked controversy.

Lion New Zealand says the upcoming Zero Suicide Workplace programme will help Kiwi companies, but some say it's "disingenuous" for an alcohol company to sponsor a mental health programme.

Alcohol harm reduction advocate Richie Hardcore is among those questioning whether a Lifeline-Lion partnership is appropriate.

"There is a well-documented cause or link between excess alcohol consumption and poor mental health, so I think it's disingenuous."

But Lifeline says the company was chosen to work on the pilot programme because it already has a well-established wellness scheme in its own workplace.

"It made sense for us to be able to start with an organisation that had the systems already set up for us to build on our programmes," says Lifeline executive director Glenda Schnell.

The new partnership will help fund Lifeline which specialises in suicide prevention, but has been unable to answer one in four calls due to a lack of money.

But Mr Hardcore says it could potentially harm Lifeline's reputation and we need to stop normalising alcohol consumption.

"Sponsoring mental health crisis lines - what does that say about alcohol and how we genuinely need to address the problems alcohol causes?"

Lion New Zealand released a statement saying it was proud to support the Lifeline programme, which it would integrate into its existing mental health processes.

It also said it was proud to continue promoting the responsible consumption of its products.

If the pilot is a success, Lifeline intends to roll out a much larger programme, backed by a host of companies, from March 2019.