Australia’s first suicide-safe house will be set up in the ACT if a nationwide appeal to be launched on Monday is successful.
Lifeline Canberra will call for $1 million in donations to set up a trust fund to establish the purpose-built house.
Angry Anderson will become the ambassador for the campaign, knocking on the doors of 100 companies to ask for a $10,000 cheque.
The unique request for funds from across Australia for one branch of the Lifeline telephone crisis service is being made on the basis the ACT branch is a high achiever that is underpinning other branches.
”We are a net intaker of calls from around Australia – we answer more calls from elsewhere than from Canberra,” CEO Mike Zissler said.
”We’re just one of the high achievers, so we’re very proud of that.”
Mr Zissler will also announce the ACT Bookfair has broken the half million dollar mark for the first time, raising $501,000 from the sale of donated books late last month.
Heavy rain on the first day of the three-day event may have kept people at the Bookfair longer, as they spent more per person than last year.
Australian War Memorial director Dr Brendan Nelson will attend the launch on Monday, as patron of Lifeline Canberra.
Mr Zissler said the suicide-safe house would be based on a model used overseas.
”We are breaking records in our fund-raising but fundamentally our problem is we do live from hand to mouth – as quick as I generate money through the book fairs I am spending it on volunteers to answer calls,” he said.
The $1 million to be raised Australia-wide would be put into a trust fund, with the interest used to fund projects. ”We are looking to be more ambitious in saving lives so, in the future, would like to create Australia’s first suicide-safe house,” Mr Zissler said.
”It’s based on a British and Canadian model where people who are highly vulnerable to suicide, who have thoughts of suicide, can come and stay in this home-like environment in the community.
”The house will be staffed by both professionals and volunteers and they can stay there for seven, 14 or 21 days, depending on the needs.
”It’s design is suicide-safe in terms of infrastructure but it’s also a safe place while you move through your crisis and then return to some sort of more healthy thinking.
”It’s a non-clinical setting so it’s not a mental health service.
”The challenge for many people who have thoughts of suicide is that one of the last things they want to do is end up in a secure psychiatric unit.”
Mr Zissler said Lifeline Canberra was about to expand its telephone crisis service unit to accommodate eight volunteers handling calls simultaneously.
”One of the challenges Lifeline faces nationally is not all calls get answered – we are always struggling to answer more calls because every missed call could be someone who goes on to take their life,” he said.
”Reports of one million missed calls are not correct.
”Nationally Lifeline is currently answering about 700,000 calls a year and we think the demand is about 850,000 based on calls that drop out.
”In Canberra last calendar year we answered 28,753 calls and every month we are seeing a growth of 15 to 20 per cent.”
This article first appeared on ‘Brisbane Times’ on 14 April 2014.