COVID-19: Calls to Lifeline Aotearoa nearly double over pandemic

COVID-19: Calls to Lifeline Aotearoa nearly double over pandemic
Photo credit: Lee Smith-Gibbons / The Wireless via RNZ

Lifeline Aotearoa says calls and texts to its helpline have skyrocketed in the past 18 months - up 88 percent compared to 2019.

The charity provides free and confidential mental health support from qualified counsellors and trained volunteers.

Its operations manager, Helena de Fontenay, said one reason for the increase is changing attitudes to text and phone mental health support.

"I think the idea of reaching out through the telephone and texts has become part of the norm.

"We do doctor's appointments on the phone so why not reach out for support on the phone?"

The week of September 27 to October 3 is Mental Health Awareness Week, and demand on services throughout Aotearoa have been stretched during the Delta outbreak.

Lifeline recorded its highest ever text day on 10 September, World Suicide Prevention Day.

De Fontenay said the first week of the current lockdown saw Lifeline receive about 8500 calls and texts, which rose to 8700 in week two, 10,900 in week three, 11,167 in week four, and 10,713 in week five, when most of New Zealand was in alert level 2.

De Fontenay said that most calls to the service at the moment are about loneliness and isolation.

"Mental Health Awareness Week's theme this year is 'Take Time to Kōrero', and that is exactly what we want people to do when they call Lifeline.

"It's why we exist for anyone, anytime, anywhere in New Zealand - for someone to kōrero with when there might not be anyone to talk to."

To meet the increased need, Lifeline is seeking urgent donations to train more permanent staff and volunteers.

"'Despite the massive increase in demand for our services, Lifeline does not receive any government funding, relying on donations to provide our essential support," de Fontenay said.

"We all need to be working together to address New Zealand's mental health issues. That includes supporting our frontline counsellors and volunteers. At Lifeline, we need funding to train more people, to take more calls and save more lives.

"If you have ever known anyone who has struggled with mental wellbeing, this is the time to give on their behalf because the $50 you give may literally save the life of someone in your community."

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email

What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

OUTLine: 0800 688 5463 (6pm-9pm)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Sexual Violence

NZ Police

Victim Support 0800 842 846

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape Prevention Education

Empowerment Trust

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0

Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334.

Mosaic - Tiaki Tangata Peer support for males who have experienced trauma and sexual abuse: 0800 94 22 94

Family Violence

Women's Refuge: (0800 733 843)

It's Not OK (0800 456 450)

Shine: 0508 744 633

Victim Support: 0800 650 654

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0

The National Network of Family Violence Services NZ has information on specialist family violence agencies.