Lifestyle

Melbourne’s COVID lockdown through the eyes of a Lifeline volunteer

It’s the sense of loneliness that lingers for Lifeline volunteer Antonia – the sad desperation of callers with nobody else to turn to.

She joined the crisis support hotline earlier this year – copping a deluge of callers with COVID-related concerns.

But the one that really sticks with her, she tells 7NEWS.com.au, is a woman who was alone after undergoing an operation.

With no one to talk to, the woman wound up paying someone just to come and visit.

“The sense of loneliness was really palatable,” Antonia recalls.

“She had paid for, sort of a check-in service, and she said she just felt like a robot.

“She felt that this person did not care.”

Antonia says the pandemic has claimed one of the greatest scalps imaginable – human connection.

Antonia says she joined Lifeline after a career working with big corporations. Credit: Sam Aitken/7NEWS.com.au

“I think just being able to chat and talk is really important. Face-to-face.

“But for months and months that just wasn’t there.”

Looking ahead, Antonia says she’s hopeful for a merrier Christmas than the first three-quarters of the year.

“I think one of the things we learned was a crisis may not be a crisis, but why they’re calling is just, they’re lonely.

“So that’s why they have called and everyone has a right to call. That’s their crisis.”

The unassuming glass doors of a call centre in Sydney's Northern Beaches.
The unassuming glass doors of a call centre in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Credit: Sam Aitken/7NEWS.com.au

When Antonia joined Lifeline at the start of the year, she could not imagine what the following months would have in store.

“You never know what the next call is gonna be,” she says.

“It can be quite unnerving.

“But I love the human connection that you get with someone and the feeling that hopefully you’ve helped them. That’s the key driver for me.”

A mum-of-three, she took up the position after working in recruitment in the United Kingdom.

The difference? Overseas, she was working for a firm and was tasked with making senior executives more money. Here, she says, it’s rewarding to work for other’s health benefits.

Antonia says one of the biggest things lost in the pandemic is the ability to have a human connection.
Antonia says one of the biggest things lost in the pandemic is the ability to have a human connection. Credit: Sam Aitken/7NEWS.com.au

She felt like it was a good time to do something more meaningful.

“So when I came here seven years ago, it was a great point to rethink what I wanted to do and making people more money wasn’t right up there.”

Despite being busy with three young kids, Antonia concedes it can be difficult not to take her work home with her – but credits Lifeline with enforcing a “barrier” between the call centre and her house.

The support of the Inshift supervisors, she says, has been invaluable. As well as fellow Crisis Supporters.

“I’ve got three kids and you know sometimes can really irritate you they can stress you out a bit. But learning to centre yourself, a technique learnt at Lifeline that was that’s has been great in terms of bringing that training from Lifeline to real life.”

MEET MORE VOLUNTEERS (tape on their name)

Lifeline volunteer Dee.
Lifeline volunteer Dee. Credit: Sam Aitken/7NEW.com.au

DEE

Lifeline volunteer Andrew.
Lifeline volunteer Andrew. Credit: Sam Aitken/7NEWS.com.au

ANDREW

Watching from the sidelines as his son dealt with his own mental health demons led Simon to volunteer at Lifeline.
Watching from the sidelines as his son dealt with his own mental health demons led Simon to volunteer at Lifeline. Credit: Sam Aitken/7NEWS.com.au

SIMON

Lifeline volunteer Richard.
Lifeline volunteer Richard. Credit: Sam Aitken/7NEWS.com.au

RICHARD

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

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