12 Apr 2019

Distraught woman gives up on Lifeline after phone call put on hold

9:43 am on 12 April 2019

A desperate woman who rang Lifeline for help was kept waiting for half an hour before she eventually hung up.

Standard cells have a telephone for inmates to call pre-approved phone numbers.

A woman hung up on on Lifeline after trying to contact them via texts and a long phone call. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Under pressure at work and worried about her runaway teenage daughter the woman was already feeling stressed, but it was a fight with her partner two nights ago that sent her spiralling.

"I sat for a long time just like crying and just, I don't know, you get that inner monologue going just like stop, stop, stop but it doesn't - you can't make it wind down, you kind of become powerless and stuck in this feedback loop of intense emotions."

At about midnight, she decided to seek help - she texted Lifeline twice and got an automated reply saying there was no counsellor available.

No caption

Photo: Supplied

She then tried calling but was put on hold for half an hour.

"I couldn't wait any longer, I couldn't sit there. I kept crying and feeling like it was all just too much so at that point I hung up - I had my phone by me so I could call 111 but I passed out before that could happen."

She woke up the next morning woozy from some pills she took to find a text from a Lifeline counsellor - over seven hours after she first called for help.

No caption

Photo: Supplied

Her friend, Rebecca Dixon, who came around to offer some support, was shocked that someone so desperate was made to wait that long.

"I guess my biggest worry in that is she was around the next day to tell me about this and for us to be able to raise awareness but how many people have made that reach for help and received nothing and they're not here to tell their stories now."

Increase in calls since Christchurch mosque attacks, Lifeline boss says

Lifeline's executive director Glenda Schnell said that long waits were unfortunately common.

"It really breaks our heart to know when people are not able to get through but unfortunately that has been somewhat of our reality."

They get about 350 texts and calls a day - and that's doubled since the mosque attacks in Christchurch.

"We need to be able to answer those calls; we do need some sustainable funding. It's certainly our goal not to let any call go unanswered but this has been particularly difficult over the last couple of weeks."

Lifeline lost government funding at the end of 2015, and now relies on donations to run its crisisline.

Ms Schnell said people should ring 111 if it was an emergency.

But Ms Dixon said the crisis line should be directing people to other services if it can't cope.

"At any point those texts could've been edited to include some of these other services that are more heavily resourced and do have more options and why can't these services be working together to ensure that if they're not getting the right resources there are still other options."

Her friend who didn't get the help she needed said she would not be ringing any helpline again until she was sure someone would pick up the phone.

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 talk@youthline.co.nz

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

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

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs