The Law Society’s Practising Well partner Lifeline Aotearoa has been helping lawyers and their families since the two organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 31 August 2012.
At 3pm on that date, Lifeline Aotearoa became the first organisation to join the Law Society as part of the Practising Well initiative. Since then, Business Mentors and Vitality Works have also become partners.
In the four years and three months since then, Lifeline has helped a good number of lawyers. Just how many lawyers and family members of lawyers is not known. This is because Lifeline does not keep statistics in relation to one of its services.
Lifeline offers both a free telephone service and a counselling service, which can be either face-to-face or via Skype.
It does keep figures for the counselling service, and six lawyers have used this in the last two years. However, it does not keep statistics in relation to the telephone service. People calling in do not necessarily tell the telephone counsellors what their occupation is.
The Law Society was given some indication of lawyer use of this service earlier this year, when a Lifeline staff member told us that anecdotally, around two lawyers a week were using the telephone service.
This telephone service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Lifeline answers calls from people dealing with a wide range of issues including relationship problems, work issues, stress, grief, bullying, financial concerns and abuse. Callers are often stressed, anxious, have low mood, are confused, lonely or feeling hopeless.
Around 50% of calls involve risk of self-harm, suicide or harm to others. That is an area of particular relevance, as Lifeline’s expertise is in suicide prevention.
“Not sure who I talked to tonight, but she literally saved my life. I’m feeling much better”. This is just one quote from an anonymous caller that Lifeline received.
Service under threat
Funding cuts have meant that Lifeline’s service is under significant threat, however. People visiting the organisation’s website, www.lifeline.org.nz, will see this dramatically stated on its home page.
“Without your help, the phones will go dead,” the headline reads.
Unless Lifeline can attract public support, it will have to close by June 2017.
That is because it has lost a National Telehealth contract it previously held. That has left the organisation needing to raise $2.6 million annually.
Under the “without your help, the phones will go dead” is a “donate now” button. Lifeline would welcome donations, and would also welcome any bequests or philanthrophy that people may wish to provide.
More information about endowing Lifeline where using the “donate now” button is not relevant is available from the appeals manager, Debbie Greenfield, phone 09 909 8754, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
While funding has gone down, demand for services has increased. Currently 18,000 people a month are using the service, up from 15,000 a month in 2015.
A dramatic increase in calls followed the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck New Zealand at 12.02am on Monday 14 November.
“Calls were up 33% on normal levels between midnight and 3am the morning of the shake,” Ms Greenfield told LawTalk.
“We are doing all we can to ensure the survival of this vital service and we hope that it will be available for future generations,” she adds.
Lifeline and the Law Society
The services Lifeline provides under the Memorandum of Understanding with the Law Society is summed up in the Practising Well section of the Law Society’s website. That says:
“Lifeline Counselling has a team of qualified professional counsellors experienced in working with clients across a broad range of issues.
“Our high quality confidential service can help with day-to-day issues such as: stress, anxiety, burnout, depression, relationship issues, grief, trauma and addiction.
“All our counsellors are qualified to Masters level and are members of the NZ Association of Counsellors.
“For New Zealand Law Society members and families we are offering a discounted rate: $110 based on a normal 60 minute session.
“Currently this face-to-face service is only available in Auckland and Hamilton.
“Skype face-to-face counselling applies throughout New Zealand.
“Please contact Lifeline by email email@example.com, phone 09 909 2917, or by filling out a request for counselling form on the Lifeline website.”