Lifeline experienced a 20 per cent increase in calls in 2012. Alisha (pictured in background) is a Lifeline volunteer. Photo: Melissa Adams
Canberrans may be among the most highly educated and paid people in the country but it seems money cannot always buy happiness as new figures from Lifeline Canberra revealed.
The crisis support line reported a 20 per cent increase in the total number of calls in 2012. Personal finances, unemployment and relationships were the main problems facing callers.
But natural disasters such as the Queensland floods, bushfires and the earthquakes in Christchurch also weighed on many minds.
Lifeline Canberra chief executive Mike Zissler said the 20 per cent increase was part of an overall upward trend in recent years that started with the 2008 financial crisis.
Mr Zissler said Lifeline Canberra volunteers had met the demand, by being able to answer more of the calls in 2012.
The service actually dealt with 21,357 of them - a 30 per cent increase in answer rates - up from 15,010 the previous year.
Lifeline Canberra volunteer Alisha was among the hundreds of helpers who are there to offer a sympathetic ear.
The 34-year-old from Belconnen became interested in the service after losing her brother to suicide.
"It's quite personal for me," Alisha said.
"I thought if I could help people then that would be a fantastic way to give back to the community and it's very rewarding."
Alisha said callers ranged from those in severe distress to people who were lonely seeking human contact.
"We believe in the prevention side of things, having that connection with another human being who is non-judgmental, has unconditional regard and respect for you makes such a difference,'' she said.
"That really helps in prevention, so we hope less people get to the point where they are thinking of suicide. Simply being there for someone, listening to them and doing what we can to empower the caller, works for everyone in any situation and makes me intensely proud to be part of this amazing organisation."
But Mr Zissler said the increase in calls had put a strain on resources.
"In any economic model you want supply to equal demand," Mr Zissler said. "We are stretched to our limits in terms of a balance between what our current volunteers can deliver and our need to train more volunteers."
Lifeline Canberra would be training 120 new recruits this year to keep up with demand, Mr Zissler said. But the training took money and time. It costs about $8000 and up to a year to train a new volunteer to the point where they are ready for frontline roles.
People in distress should call Lifeline on 131 114 to chat with a trained volunteer.
The organisation is still recruiting so anyone interested or wishing to donate to Lifeline Canberra should visit the website www.act.lifeline.org.au.