‘We feel like no one cares at all’

Fergus Cumiskey, of Contact NI, who run Lifeline.
Fergus Cumiskey, of Contact NI, who run Lifeline.

The proposed changes to the way the ‘Lifeline’ telephone line could operate, is giving the message to people in crisis that “no-one cares at all” - one local service user has said.

The lady, who asked that we withhold her name from publication, said she has called the help line on a number of occasions - when she has been between appointments with her mental health team, or when she experiences suicidal thoughts.

“The people who answer the phones know me - it will come up on their screens if they have talked to me before. They know my history. I don’t have to go over it again when in crisis, I can pick up where I am.

“They listen and I trust them. I know they understand me - and they do help.”

The woman, who has experienced suicide among close family members, said she was “horrified” when she heard this week that under new Public Health Authority proposals the way the phone line operates could be radically changed.

The PHA are proposing to downgrade the crisis helpline replacing professional counselling, advocacy and referral services with a listening and signposting service staffed by call operators.

The local woman said this sent out “the wrong message” to callers.

“If you are passed around it brings up questions in your head. Did they think you weren’t serious? Was your case not severe enough? Could they not be bothered to talk to you?

“When you’re in crisis, it takes so much effort to pick up the phone in the first place - to be pushed on somewhere else . . . people just won’t do it. And we are living in a city in crisis.”

Contact, the organisation who run Lifeline, is urging the public to attend a public meeting today where the proposals will be discussed at in the boardroom at Gransha House, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.

Fergus Cumiskey, Manager of Contact, said: “We encourage the public to engage with our campaign to Protect Lifeline by visiting www.ProtectLifelineNI.org to find out more and contact their local political representatives through the campaign website.”

Lifeline is Northern Ireland’s regional free-phone 24/7 suicide prevention crisis helpline and counselling service available for people of all ages. Lifeline has been benchmarked against leading international crisis lines since 2006.