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Top End suicide hotline shuts down

AAP logoAAP 9/10/2016 Lucy Hughes Jones

Suicide hotline Lifeline is closing its doors in Darwin after severe budget cuts from the Northern Territory government.

Territorians can still call Lifeline's national phone network, but face-to-face counselling and engagement with the community will stop.

As National Mental Health Week kicks off, Lifeline Top End's chairman Andrew Warton says it's a huge blow to the Territory, which has the highest suicide rates in country and the highest youth suicide rates in the world.

The frontline call centre ran in the Darwin region for 10 years, but the NT government reduced its funding to $200,000 per annum last financial year.

Mr Warton said the organisation needs $450,000 to answer around 700 calls a month and has struggled to stay afloat.

"We sailed so close to the wind last financial year, it's physically not possible to do it again," he told ABC radio.

"We survived only for the grace of a lot of community support, sponsorship and fundraising."

NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles says the government is still negotiating with Lifeline Australia.

"The $200,000 is still on the table. That is more than adequate to provide the service to Territorians," she said.

"You didn't necessarily reach someone from the Northern Territory when you called Lifeline previously. It went through to a national call bank and it was flicked to an available counsellor."

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

Local Aboriginal Medical Service available from www.vibe.com.au.

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