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Lifeline support expands to combat record suicide rates

Victorians have access to more mental health support services following the launch of a suicide prevention helpline to combat record high rates across the state.

Up to three people take their own lives every week in Victoria for various reasons, including cost-of-living struggles and COVID-19.

Increasing mental health struggles have led to a rise in demand for phone support services such as Lifeline. However, about 18 per cent of calls go unanswered.

Lifeline Narrm was launched in Melbourne on Thursday to alleviate pressure on the national system as Victoria continues to lead demand on its services.

The new Lifeline Narrm centres will service Melbourne's inner city and eastern suburbs, including Essendon, Moonee Ponds, Richmond, Hawthorn, Glen Iris, Croydon and Chirnside Park.

Death by suicide rose by nine per cent in Victoria from 2021 to 2022, which is the highest the state has seen in 23 years.

In some parts of Melbourne, particularly in the Merri-bek to Manningham area, about a dozen suicides occur each month.

"It just means getting to more individuals on time," Lifeline Narrm chief executive Carrie Leeson told AAP of the new program.

"We currently receive about 1.2 million calls nationally. The overwhelming majority is from Victoria, so what this will allow us to do is reach more callers and more Victorians."

She said face-to-face services would also be available.

Former AFL coach and transgender advocate Danielle Laidley, 55, struggled with suicidal thoughts three years ago before getting help, and said it was important to maintain a healthy life balance.

"Being here now and making the choice to live my life as my authentic self ... I work on that every day and I have to take time out," Ms Laidley said.

"Whether that's walking, going to the beach for a swim or doing yoga, eating right, getting enough sleep, I know that if I do that, I'll be OK."

Lifeline Narrm was named in consultation with the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation.

Nationally, Lifeline received a record 1,070,860 calls in 2021, with an average answer rate of about 90 per cent.

There were more than 26,000 searches for assistance and support in January across Australia, the highest number on record, according to data from Lifeline.

The not-for-profit organisation heavily relies on public donations to operate and is currently in talks with the Victorian government to bolster funding.

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