'We exist so that no person has to face their darkest moments alone'

More support: Free Lifeline face-to-face counselling is now available in Tenterfield, Glen Innes, Inverell, Walcha and Armidale. Photo: Lifeline.
More support: Free Lifeline face-to-face counselling is now available in Tenterfield, Glen Innes, Inverell, Walcha and Armidale. Photo: Lifeline.

Lifeline is ramping up its reach into the district, with a new regional manager keen to grow the organisation's presence here.

Michael Were joined Lifeline in February to oversee operations in Northern NSW. He has already made the trip up the range to Tenterfield, here for the Backtrack community presentation in March.

He's based in the Lismore office but is responsible for operations north of Grafton to Tweed Heads, and west to Tenterfield, Inverell and Glen Innes.

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Every 30 seconds, a person in Australia calls the 13 11 14 Lifeline number for help and Lismore is one of 41 locations where trained crisis supporters field calls. It receives around 22,000 of the calls placed each year.

Mr Were said what constitutes a crisis is defined by the individual.

"It could be suicidal thoughts or it could be someone feeling lonely or isolated. It could be someone who's had a bad day at work and needs to vent rather than take that stress home to their family."

As well as phone support a video counselling service is now available to those in northern NSW thanks to funding from NRMA. Mr Were said this is an option for those who prefer to see a counsellor but feel uncomfortable or are unable to visit counselling rooms.

Nationally Lifeline provides services such as face-to-face counselling, support groups, mental health training services and localised community suicide prevention collaboratives. To date these additional offerings haven't been widely delivered in Northern NSW, a situation Mr Were aims to remedy.

"With the help of the local community, we'd like to invest in additional services and support to Northern NSW," Mr Were said.

"We exist so that no person in Australia has to face their darkest moments alone."

The Tenterfield community along with those in Glen Innes, Inverell, Walcha and Armidale now has access to a free, dedicated face-to-face counselling service designed to help those affected by the 2019/2020 bushfires. Funding has now been extended to also include flood impact.

"Importantly the service is available to those living in regions impacted by the disasters,' Mr Were said.

"You don't have to have lost your house, property, livestock, etc to be affected."

Michael Were, Lifeline's new Northern NSW regional general manager, is keen to see more of the organisation's services made available in this area.

Michael Were, Lifeline's new Northern NSW regional general manager, is keen to see more of the organisation's services made available in this area.

Reservations can be made for a meeting in a local counselling room. The service is free and available to anyone experiencing stress, anxiety or sadness.

Bookings are available by calling 1300 152 854 and no referral is required.

Mr Were hopes to roll out other initiatives -- like Lifeline's new AfterCare service which supports individuals after attempting suicide -- to the local region as funding becomes available.

He's also keen to see the organisation's workplace and community group training options taken up locally. The suite of packages range include a one-hour Mind Your Mates session to open up conversations about mental health, and SafeTALK which helps people notice the signs of someone in distress.

There's also a training session called Accidental Counsellor. It's for people like coaches, teachers, publicans and others who are often in a position where someone with worries may open up.

"Accidental Counsellor gives them the tools to know what to say," Mr Were said.