A phone rings at a Lifeline call centre in Sydney. Image via ABC. By Eliza Laschon.
Crisis support service Lifeline recorded more than one million calls for help in 2015, the highest number in its 52-year history.
The 24-hour telephone support line also recorded its busiest four months on record from September to December.
Lifeline Australia chief executive officer Pete Shmigel attributed the record to both an increase in awareness and acceptance of mental health issues, as well as the pressures of a technology-driven society.
“On the one hand Australians are more aware of mental health issues than they ever have been before,” he said.
“With every article that’s published on the internet, people get a little bit more confident perhaps and a little competent about talking about their mental health concerns.
“On the other hand I suggest that it’s also because of the society that we’re living in.”
Online technology ‘can increase isolation’
Mr Shmigel said factors other than mental health issues such as depression and anxiety were at play.
“Australians spend upwards of 10 and 12 hours a day on average online nowadays,” he said.
“They have three digital devices and sometimes that technology, as great as it is, can also enhance our feelings of loneliness, our feelings of isolation.
“That sense of, ‘am I the only unhappy person on Facebook?'”
He said Australians’ emotional wellbeing was not in sync with their material wealth.
“Perhaps it’s because we are living too fast we are not actually staying in the present,” he said.
“We’re not actually subscribing to strong and specific values that guide us through those moments of darkness and those moments of isolation and loneliness.”
Text messaging being considered
Lifeline is working to keep up with the increasing demand of calls.
“We have to get better at providing that help so among the things that we’re looking at is how do we use technology for good,” Mr Shmigel said.
“How do we use the digital world for the good of our emotional worlds?
“We’re looking at things like extending our services if we have the right funding support, to things like text messaging which can be an easier and more convenient way for some people who are in crisis to reach out to us.”
According to Lifeline, suicide claims almost seven Australian lives a day, and two thirds of those are men.
“Blokes in particular sometimes feel that the anonymity of text gives them makes it a bit easier to say, ‘look, I’m not doing that well, I could use some help here’, so we want to be here to meet their needs,” Mr Shmigel said.
If you or anyone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.