LIFELINE Central Victoria and Mallee is going from strength to strength.
Lifeline Central Victoria and Mallee now boasts more than 90 volunteers
Our last three training groups have all had 20 plus people come on to the phones ... it's a national problem getting volunteers but in Bendigo we are spoilt.
The Bendigo-based service now boasts more than 90 volunteers who offer a listening ear to people who call the 13 11 14 help line.
Lifeline Central Victoria and Mallee chief executive officer Leo Schultz said 27 new volunteers were now on the books after a recent training round.
"It's taken our volunteer workforce to the highest that it's ever been, we've been really fortunate this year.
"Our last three training groups have all had 20 plus people come on to the phones.
"And this is despite a national problem across lifeline with difficulty recruiting volunteers.
"It's a national problem getting volunteers but in Bendigo we are spoilt."
Mr Schultz said volunteers came from all walks of life and all approached their role in a professional manner.
The telephone crisis supporters, between them, field between 1400 and 2000 calls a month.
Bob, who did not to wish his surname, started volunteering with the service in 1999.
He's modest about the time he donates but takes about 1500 calls a year.
"They have good biscuits," he joked.
Mr Schultz said Bob played a huge role in making the centre efficient by matching crisis supporters with a phone.
"Bob does more shifts than any other volunteer nationally," Mr Schultz said.
Bob started volunteering with Lifeline after retiring and losing a friend to suicide.
"It's very satisfying," he said.
"I come in a couple of days a week.
"I go past and I call in and I do a bit and go home and then come back."
Bob said some calls could be very confronting.
"Domestic violence, where the person just can't see a way out of it, can be hard," he said.
"When they're trapped.
"They're probably the hardest but they also can be the most satisfying.
"You may not get a result but might plant a seed that's going to work in six months time."
Bob said he would definitely encourage people thinking about volunteering to consider Lifeline.
"You get a lot out of it," he said.
"You have to or you wouldn't do it."
Allira, who also did not wish to use her surname, is one of the service's new recruits.
"The training was tough but really worth it," she said.
"You kind of don't really think about having to ask someone if they are thinking about suicide.
"That's a massive thing to ask.
"When I realised that was what we had to do it was daunting.
"But you learn how to listen to people and it changes the way you think about other people and what they're doing in their lives.
"It really opens your eyes up a lot more than I expected it to."
Allira is a student at La Trobe University.
"I'm doing social work," she said.
"I've had a fair range calls including a few suicide and domestic violence ones.
"But I think the hardest ones are the people that are lonely.
"It's really sad when you talk to them and they tell you about their lives.
"It's just terrible."
Mr Schultz said the next round of volunteer training is in March.
Lifeline Central Victoria and Mallee will hold its annual general meeting on Wednesday, November 6, at 7pm.
"We're increasingly trying to get interest in that," Mr Schultz said.
"We used to just get our staff and volunteers attend so it was a closed AGM but we increasingly want it to be an open one so we're having a guest speaker at this one.
"The guest speaker is Nicole Hussey and she's the Young Victorian of the Year for 2013.
"She was nominated and awarded that on the basis of her volunteer work for suicide prevention with young people."
The AGM will be at the La Trobe Visual Arts Centre in View Street and is open to the public.
The help line's latest figures show central Victorian residents are increasingly making use of Lifeline.
The figures show 1430 central Victorian residents used the service compared with just 677 in July 2012.
Mr Schultz said a common theme for calls was relationships.
"And often with relationships, relationships suffer because of the other things that are happening in people's lives," he said.
"So if we think of mental health, financial stress, and work pressures also come into it - we know that that's a factor in this region."
Mr Schultz said the service did not closely monitor suicide rates and many deaths were ambiguous.
"It's really hard to say over a long period whether suicide is increasing or decreasing because there are a lot of vagaries associated with suicide," he said.
"So if we imagine single vehicle car accidents, poisonings, drownings, over doses and that sort of stuff, sometimes they will be attributed to suicide where there's a known history of mental illness or suicide idealisation.
"And that's been consistent throughout history.
"People dying by suicide is often ambiguous so it's really hard to say if it's increased or decreased over a long period of time.
"There's a study currently being conducted by beyondblue in conjunction with the coroners office on reporting of suicide."
If you or someone you know needs help phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.