Northern Ireland news

One call every 12 minutes to Lifeline by people 'in despair' during pandemic

Lifeline is the free crisis intervention phone service for Northern Ireland
Seanín Graham

A CRISIS counselling phone service received more than 44,000 calls from people across Northern Ireland last year - an average of one every 12 minutes.

Suicidal thoughts and depression were among the main reasons cited by those making contact with Lifeline, a free service which operates 24 hours a day.

Set up in 2006 as a key part of the north's suicide prevention strategy, the project is staffed by trained counsellors and funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA).

With harsh lockdown measures in places for more than four months last year, Lifeline's manager said the impact of the pandemic was severe for those struggling to deal with anxiety in isolation.

"Many people in our community continue to deal with the stress and challenges brought on by the impact of the pandemic, this along with other stressful life events can compound feelings of despair," John Hand said.

"People may be feeling overwhelmed and cannot, for whatever reason, speak to a family member or friend, Lifeline counsellors are at the end of the phone day and night to support everyone.


"Our counsellors are trained in wide range of issues, from relationship breakdown, abuse, self-harm, addiction-related issues, to name a few. They will listen, support, or signpost to appropriate community and voluntary organisations that can help."

The service offers short-term counselling if required and follow-up calls for a limited time to check on people to see how they are coping.


Calls are also accepted on behalf of someone in distress who can't make that first contact for themselves, with counsellors available to speak to a friend or family member and enable them to support the person in distress.

Healthcare workers including GPs also regularly refer people to Lifeline.


Mr Hand added: "Although the highest number of calls to Lifeline relate to people experiencing suicidal thoughts, Lifeline is also there to offer early intervention support to people before they reach that crisis point in their lives.


"We like to say that at Lifeline we offer the right support at the right time - anytime."


If you or someone you know is in distress or despair and needs support they can contact Lifeline free on 0808 808 8000.


For mental and emotional wellbeing, self-help tips and support information visit


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