Almost 600 elegantly dressed guests gathered in a candlelit ballroom at the Westin Hotel in the city on Saturday night to help Lifeline raise much needed funds for its face-to-face counselling and suicide prevention services.
In her welcome to attendees, Wendy Carver, the CEO of Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury (H2H), asked people to spare a moment to remember that while they were enjoying their evening, a dedicated workforce of telephone crisis supporters were answering calls on Lifeline’s national crisis line 13 11 14, at the rate of one every 32 seconds. “They will be listening with compassion, providing care and – most importantly – rekindling hope,” Mrs Carver said.
“[Telephone Crisis Supporters] will be listening with compassion, providing care and – most importantly – rekindling hope.”
As more and more people struggle with the pressures of everyday living — such as grief, financial stress, relationship breakdown, domestic violence, bullying, addiction, loneliness and mental illness—suicide has remained stubbornly prevalent. With 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health episode every 12 months and 8 people currently dying by suicide every day around the country, Lifeline’s counselling and telephone crisis line are needed more than ever.
While Lifeline is there when those who are vulnerable reach out for help, sadly, not every call that comes through 13 11 14 is answered. In fact, Mrs Carver revealed, ‘Lifeline is answering only around 82% of the more than 900,000 calls received in a year. It is hard to imagine what it must be like for someone who has found the courage to phone Lifeline, only to find that no one is free to take their call.”
The main aim of the Sapphire Gala Ball was to tackle this situation head on by raising as much money as possible to enable Lifeline to better support people in need. Lifeline Australia’s chairman, John Brogden, encouraged guests to ‘dig deep’ — and this is exactly what they did. Between meal courses and entertainment segments, guests bought raffle tickets and bid in silent and live auctions for a diverse range of prizes donated by businesses and members of the community; many guests also made pledges of $500 each to help fund the training of a telephone crisis supporter.
“I won’t rest until people talk about anxiety and depression in the same way they would talk about a broken leg.”
Special guest speaker Jo Abi — journalist, TV and radio presenter, and blogger — shared a moving, deeply personal account of her experience as a single, working mother of a teenage son who has attempted suicide several times. She told a rapt audience how he woke her up late one night, with his phone held to his ear. He had contacted Lifeline and ‘they made him wake me up because he wasn’t safe’. She said that her battle every day is not only to keep her son alive, but to help break the stigma surrounding mental health. “I won’t rest until people talk about anxiety and depression in the same way they would talk about a broken leg.”
Channel Seven news anchor, Mark Ferguson, emceed the event, while Geoff Smith, from Ray White Lower North Shore, was the fundraiser’s auctioneer. Both gave their time to support the occasion, while The Star was the ball’s Diamond Sponsor for the fifth year in a row. Among the dignitaries in attendance were MPs Julian Leeser and Felicity Wilson.
Lifeline thanks all who contributed to making this year’s Sapphire Gala Ball another spectacular success, most especially the ball’s valued sponsors and the kind volunteers whose assistance ensured the event ran with precision and flair — with the fantastic result helping Lifeline continue to save lives.