Lee-Ann Foord has had a long association with Lifeline … 22 years as a volunteer and 20 years as an employee. During this time, it’d be impossible to estimate the number of people she’s supported through suicide education, intervention and bereavement counselling and to measure the value of the assistance she’s provided – but at the end of this month, Lee-Ann will retire, leaving some very big shoes to fill …
Hi Lee-Ann. How long has the Greater Port Macquarie area been your base?
Our family moved to Port Macquarie in 1995, as my husband got a company transfer.
You have a long association with Lifeline you’ve been a participant in a support group, volunteer, employee. What first led you to Lifeline?
What first brought me to Lifeline was the suicide of my youngest brother in 1990. I needed support after his death and saw an article in our local paper about a support group for people bereaved by suicide, which was run by Lifeline. I joined the group and eventually trained to go on the “phones”. Once we moved to Port, I volunteered with Lifeline Mid Coast.
What have your various volunteer roles with Lifeline encompassed over the past 22 years, and why have you continued to provide your time so generously?
My volunteering roles with Lifeline involved me answering calls to our crisis line for five years and being a support person to other crisis supporters (these days known as In-shift Support Supervisor) for 19 years. Why have I given my time to volunteering? It’s such a fulfilling thing to do. It’s truly a gift and a privilege to help relieve people’s pain – knowing they have the answers to their own problems and that by simply listening to their pain helps them to help themselves.
You’ve also been employed by Lifeline for 20 years, and one of your current roles is that of the Mid Coast’s Life Matters Coordinator. What does this position involve?
Suicide! All aspects of it – prevention – by teaching people the skills they need to help someone at risk of suicide via our LivingWorks ASIST and safeTALK programs. Intervention – actually helping someone at risk, which can happen with anyone, anywhere, anytime. And postvention – after a death by suicide, supporting the family and friends through our bereavement support group and our Eclipse group, which is a group for those who have survived an attempt.
Yes, another group in our community many of us may not think about regularly are suicide attempt survivors. How does Eclipse, the group you founded, help support these individuals?
This group is such a special group to be part of. To see people who struggle with suicide find ways to cope and survive is amazing. We have a set programme which aims to build resilience and community connections for the participants. The wonderful thing is that other Lifeline centres are interested in starting Eclipse groups too.
What are some ways in which you feel the community as a whole can better help support others?
We can all do something for others, and it starts with something as simple as a smile. Smile at someone you don’t know! That one smile can save a life; the eye contact that comes with the smile may be the only contact with another person the receiver has. And, always be kind to others.
You’re retiring from Lifeline at the end of August. What are your future plans?
Family and travel! We have three children who live in three different states, so it’s a long time between visits; seeing them and our grandson more frequently is what my soul needs most. A bit of grey-nomading is on the cards too!
Final say …
Lifeline is truly an asset to our community, and it’s been a privilege and a pleasure to work there. Our local centre has wonderful volunteers and staff in our shops and on our phones. We’ve grown so much in my time there, with support from the community.
Interview: Jo Robinson.