Why is it important that crisis lines are culturally adaptable?

  • Why is it important that crisis lines are culturally adaptable? image

March 2023

Creating a crisis line that is culturally safe and relevant to the people it will serve is crucial. Every country has its own identity, struggles, triumphs and experiences that are unique to their help seekers, volunteers and staff.

“People calling a helpline need to feel that when they start to talk and put into words the most awful things that are happening in their lives, the person who is listening really understands what they’re saying,” says LifeLine International Policy Advisor Dr Alan Woodward.

“That’s where the cultural and social dimension becomes critical,”

Around one in four Australians are immigrants creating a rich, multicultural society and a highly conducive environment for Lifeline International’s home base, something Dr Woodward says is no accident.

“Australia is a liberal democracy, and an open and free society that has for many years embraced our national cultural diversity—through government policies, community support systems and social attitudes.”

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to crisis lines, and for Dr Woodward, South Africa’s services stand out as an example of adaptation to specific cultural needs.

“If you look at the crisis line in South Africa, for example, for many years they have been working in communities where the impacts of HIV and gender based violence are still being tragically felt, and this is reflected in the nature of the support given by their crisis line,” Dr Woodward said.

“The personal crisis and distress from this epidemic have been woven into the collective community experience and the crisis line organisation understands that. They help people who have lost loved ones, free from the social stigmas that surround these tragedies.”

For our Members, LifeLine International creates a sounding board and safe space for crisis lines teams to connect, learn and share with representatives in their region, leveraging best practice and tapping into cultural nuance.

“We can join and communicate with each other like never before. There are cultural overlays to that connection, with social norms and attitudes that relate, but these are things that we can all learn from, and we’re all enriched as a result,” Dr Woodward says.

“LifeLine International plays a valuable role in supporting this collaboration across the globe.”

LifeLine International currently has 24 Members in diverse geographic locations—each with their own approach and dealing with unique challenges and impacts on their communities. But one thing remains the same—our Members offer quality, accessible, community-based, and mostly volunteer-operated services to provide empathetic, non-judgemental crisis support.

Ultimately, LifeLine International supports our Members across the world in our shared mission to save lives from suicide.

Explore our website to find out more about joining Lifeline International or to meet our network of members.