Suicidal people at risk from Mobile Phone outfits' greed

Suicide lines and phone in counselling services are being killed off by heartless mobile telcos who want to make a fortune from charging the mentally ill and stressed teens.

Many of the helplines use special free numbers which are designed to make it easy for kids to call in.

But, according to the Sydney Morning Herald,  Mobile Telcos are charging huge levies when users call those numbers and often even blocking them from being called. The reason is that they are free or the cost of a local call.

The problem is worldwide but in Australia Crisis lines such as Lifeline and Kids Helpline say a large and increasing portion of their callers are on mobiles and the exorbitant fees are discouraging and preventing people from seeking help.

They are fighting back with the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), the Australian Financial Counselling and Credit Reform Association (AFCCRA) and the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) – lodging a “super complaint” over the matter with the communications watchdog, the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

People using such services and suffering from depression are likely to be pushed over the edge by huge phone bills are also being hit by calls to vital government agencies such as Centrelink, telcos and utility providers.

Dawn O’Neil, chief executive of Lifeline, said a quarter of calls to the crisis line came from mobiles and this number was likely to rise to half of all calls within a year.

Many callers were unemployed or on disability pensions and couldn’t afford to have landlines, so only used prepaid phones.

She pointed out that when their prepaid credit runs it out could be very very serious. It’s a barrier to people getting help when they need it and it could put people’s lives at risk.

Apparently children and young people are more likely to contact such a group on a mobile phone when they are dealing with suicidal thoughts and self-injury.