The head of a Kiwisaver provider has made a large donation to Lifeline after being "shocked" by how many calls the cash-strapped suicide prevention line was missing.

Sam Stubbs, the managing director of low-fees Kiwisaver fund Simplicity, said he would donate $72,000 through the company's charitable trust.

He contacted Lifeline after a trustee alerted him to a Herald article on Monday, which reported that the 50 year-old helpline was missing one in four calls from people in distress because of a funding shortage.

"This isn't good enough," he said in an open letter today, which also urges other New Zealand businesses to donate.


Stubbs, who has previously worked at Tower Investments, Hanover Group and Goldman Sachs, said it was an appropriate cause for his company to support.

"Financial products are basically fences at the top of the cliff to make sure disasters don't happen," he said.

"And in this case, with Lifeline, it's the ultimate fence at the top of the cliff.

"We'd rather spend money shoring up that fence than having to deal with all the crisis and tragedy at the bottom."

Stubbs said he knew of many people who had called the helpline at a time of distress.

"People should not underestimate how much courage it takes for the ordinary New Zealander to ask for help from a complete stranger," he said.

The trust initially offered Lifeline $50,000 but was persuaded to give $72,000 to match the theme of Lifeline's fundraising campaign, The 72 Club.

It is a play on the "27 Club" of famous artists who died at age 27, and encourages people to download a cover of Janis Joplin's' Piece of My Heart. The 72 Club raises money for Lifeline by re-recording their songs with singers who have lived to be old.


In a full-page advertisement in the Herald today, Stubbs urged other companies, especially in the financial services, to join him in donating.

"The financial industry in New Zealand is very, very good at making money for itself," he said.

"It is going to make $5 billion in profit this year. It is not quite so good on corporate philanthropy, so we would like to set the example."

Lifeline, which unsuccessfully tendered for Government funding in 2015, says the number of at-risk people calling the helpline has doubled in the last three years.

Executive director Glenda Schnell would not say how much the organisation needed to ensure all critical calls were answered. But she said it cost $25 per call to offer the helpline service and $750 to train a volunteer. The organisation takes 120,000 calls a year and trains 100 volunteers a year – a total cost of around $3.1m.

The helpline hit a low point in 2016, when just 43 per cent of calls were answered. An increase to staffing brought the rate up to 75 per cent, but Schnell said further support was needed to make sure all critical calls were answered.

It was one of four main helplines in New Zealand which are dedicated to mental health and suicide prevention. One of those, Need to Talk, is fully-funded by the Government.

Lifeline has a commercial contract to promote The 72 Club campaign with the Herald's parent company NZME.

Where to get help:

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

Or if you need to talk to someone else:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
Samaritans 0800 726 666
Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254.
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