Lifeline WA text message service: People seeking mental health support can now text with counsellors

28 June 2022

Lifeline WA has taken the extraordinary step of employing digital crisis supporters to share texts with struggling Aussies who suffer crippling anxiety when talking on the phone.

According to Lifeline WA, many young people prefer to communicate through text messages because of anxiety around phone calls and face-to-face conversations.

Lifeline WA CEO Lorna MacGregor says the digital text service seeks to fill the void that the existing phone call help service can’t.

“We find that text conversations are favoured by the younger generation,” Ms MacGregor said.

“However it isn’t just limited to younger people, it also applies to people with hearing issues and in most cases anxiety around voice chat on the phone.

“A lot of young people are part of the LGBTQIA+ community and this service can benefit them.”

Nathan, 32, who now works for Lifeline WA as a digital crisis supporter says he is proud to use his lived experience as a gay man to help people who are questioning their sexuality and gender as he once did.

“There are a lot of people who identify as LGBTQIA+ who feel safe and included and able to reach out to the service, which is amazing,” Nathan said.

“I identify as a gay man, but when I was a young person, I didn’t know of any services similar to Lifeline, let alone anything in the community.

“It’s good to know that Lifeline WA, amongst other services, is available for young people that are questioning their sexuality or their gender and might be in a difficult space to do that.”

Nathan said that in the past, services similar to Lifeline WA were few and far between — which helped inspire him and digital crisis supporter Lily, 21, to offer their time to help people who needed it most.

Like Nathan, Lily also became a passionate advocate for mental health after struggling with her own anxiety and depression.

“I know personally that I don’t like taking calls. Talking on the phone is very anxiety-provoking,” she said.

“I think being able to know that you can kind of text at any time of the day or night, and someone will be there to respond to you is a lot easier, instead of feeling the pressure to actually pick up the phone, dial a number and wait for the phone to ring.

“Being able to text is a lot more reassuring for the younger generation.”

However, it is not only the younger generation that could benefit from text conversations with counsellors.

Ms MacGregor says men are least likely of all demographics to seek help when they need it and that is mostly attributed to social stigma.

“Men, especially in the resources sector, present themselves as being stoic by being okay with adversity and are too proud to seek help,” she said.

Ms MacGregor said she believed that since men were least likely to seek help, especially when it involves a face-to-face conversation with a friend or counsellor, using the text line could benefit those who were afraid to open up.

Although this is the case, attempts are still being made to normalise help-seeking behaviour in men and stem the fear around being vulnerable and shaping it as something a courageous person would do.

Because of this Lifeline WA has collaborated with the Chamber of Minerals and Energy to provide support to people in the resources sector with a program called Resourceful Mind.

Resourceful Mind utilises existing on-site employees and trains them to support help-offering and help-seeking behaviour in the workplace.

Article published in PerthNow and written by Jonathon Nolan.