This episode will discuss Lifeline Australia, its services, evolution and role in Australia’s digital mental health landscape, and how health practitioners can incorporate Lifeline into their practice.
In this episode of Digital Mental Health Musings host, Dr. Tania McMahon speaks to Sherry Cameron and Tess Reddel from Lifeline Australia about lifeline’s services, their role in Australia’s digital mental health landscape and how Health Practitioners can integrate Lifeline into their practice.
Sherry Cameron is the National Manager of Digital Services for Lifeline Australia, which provides 24/7 service to people in distress via SMS and online chat. Sherry oversaw the evolution of Digital Services from a six-hour-a-night pilot program to a 24/7 operation using hundreds of trained volunteers, all working remotely. She is an MBA and has been an entrepreneur and business executive in the USA, Singapore, Mexico, and the UAE. She also holds an advanced degree in psychology, is a licensed counsellor, and is passionate about bringing a balance of responsible business practices, conscious leadership, and managerial stability to the mental-health and social-services sector.
Tess Reddel is a Lead Practice Facilitator at Lifeline Australia, providing trauma informed and evidence-based guidance to enable and support the delivery of the Lifeline crisis support services across the phone and digital platforms. She is a social worker by educational background and holds previous professional experience in providing psychological support to individuals and groups from asylum seeker and refugee backgrounds. Tess is passionate about supporting people from a diverse range of backgrounds and believes in collaboration with all key stakeholders at all levels of the support process. Consultation and collaboration with those experiencing crisis or distress to those delivering the support services and the strategic and policy levels allows for meaningful and sustainable change to occur.
What is the Lifeline Crisis Support Service and how has it evolved over time?
“Supporting the public in bringing down that anxiety, or bringing down the distress that someone’s feeling so that they can continue to function and to support themselves throguh their day or week.” – Sherry Cameron
Lifeline was founded almost 60 years ago by an individual who saw a need to support the public, and has expanded over the years to a national organisation offering various services. As demand has increased, particularly over the last few years through COVID, Lifeline has stepped up and innovated to meet this demand and connect with the public where and when they need it.
Lifeline crisis support began as a phone line, as someone there to answer the phone in moments of crisis. This remains their core offering, while continuing to adapt and change as the needs of the community change. Lifeline has also expanded into community services, in person throughout Australia, as well as expanding their online offerings with online chat and text support, and trustworthy information through the Lifeline website. Their aim is to understand the needs of Australian’s and meet them where they are at, being aware of people’s changing needs and preferences to support individuals and communities
Where does Lifeline fit in Australia’s digital mental health landscape?
“…demonstrating empathy and respect, and really collaborating with that person in the here and now.” – Tess Reddel
Lifeline is not a mental health service, being staffed by volunteers rather trained health professionals. They offer a connection to users, there to listen and support in a non-judegmental way in the moment, but they do not provide mental health treatment. In addition, the anonymity of the service ensures that every caller is treated in that moment of crisis, whatever that might look like for them.
Lifeline’s focus is on providing one-off crisis support, supporting people in their time of crisis, and providing a safe space to feel secure before enabling them to seek help further on with professionals. They provide in-the-moment support, as well as acting as a link to other support in collaboration with the caller, be it in person or online.
What are some ways that Health Practitioners could integrate Lifeline as a tool into their patient care?
How a health practitioner uses Lifeline, and which aspects they utilise, will change depending on their role and relationship with their patient or client. The Lifeline website is a great resource to refer clients to for information and resources to better understand how they are feeling.
Lifeline could also be a useful tool between sessions as part of a safe plan. It is important to note that Lifeline would not be able to update the health practitioner on the outcome of any calls or any continuity of care.
Utilising Lifeline with clients can benefit clients by becoming a part of their coping strategy, helping to build resilience, and empowering them to seek support independently, outside of sessions with a clinician.
Visit the Lifeline website at https://www.lifeline.org.au/ or call 13 11 14
Lifeline crisis chat: https://www.lifeline.org.au/crisis-chat/
Find a Lifeline Centre near you: https://www.lifeline.org.au/about/location-finder/
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