As the pressure continues to mount on mental health services, central Victorian crisis support workers have been given a small beacon of hope after Lifeline opened a new training centre in Bendigo's CBD on Tuesday.
The new Hargreaves street centre will replace the old Queen street one - a run-down residential property being used for Lifeline's training.
Thanks to the $10,000 federal Stronger Communities Grant, the new office has been painted and fitted out with carpet and office furniture donated by Bendigo Bank.
Lifeline Central Victoria and Mallee executive officer Lisa Renato said the new centre couldn't have come soon enough - with the volume of calls skyrocketing over the last year, stretching mental health systems across the country to breaking point.
"This time last year we were answering 800 calls a month, this year we've answered 1700 calls in November alone, '' she said.
"People are feeling more lonely, more isolated, and although nationally the number of suicides has decreased by 5.4 per cent, Lifeline calls from Victorians have increased by 52 per cent."
Ms Renato attributed the high volume of calls to a growing awareness of mental health within the community.
"That whole message around 'It's okay to not be okay', has really changed the tune," she said.
"We're getting a lot more calls from people who are just feeling overwhelmed and anxious - which is what we want because that (helps) avoid the two per cent (of) imminent suicide calls we get."
The new centre will allow Lifeline Central Victoria and Mallee to train greater numbers of volunteers in domestic violence awareness, suicide intervention and mental health first aid.
"We can then get those skills and knowledge back out into the community - which is the most important thing," Ms Renato said.
Federal Labor MP Lisa Chesters, who supported Lifeline in securing the funding, said this is a strong start in bolstering regional mental health services, although there is still work to be done.
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"At a federal level, there's not enough of the National Lifeline funding that filters down to our regionally based organisations," Ms Chesters said.
"Without the support of the state government co-contribution, this Lifeline hub would be really struggling, and you don't want to see Lifeline struggling; (it is) so critical to the fabric of our mental health system."
Regional volunteers make excellent crisis support workers as a result of their personal experiences, the Member for Bendigo added.
"I'm going to continue to campaign to see greater operational funding come to our regionally based volunteer centres," she said.
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