UC student a ‘lifeline’ for Canberra

UC student a ‘lifeline’ for Canberra 

Alison Dance

10 December 2013“I think the hardest thing about listening to Lifeline callers is the fact there is someone out there, a fellow human being, going through some unbearable pain.”

It's this compassion that led to University of Canberra student and Lifeline crisis counsellor, Nip Wijewickrema, being nominated for Young Canberra Citizen of the Year.

The final-year journalism student said it was an “honour and a privilege” to be nominated for the award, which acknowledges personal endeavours that contribute to the community.

“I never thought I had been doing anything out of the ordinary. Receiving this support, encouragement and acknowledgement reassured me that I am doing the right thing by my community,” Ms Wijewickrema said.

Nip Wijewickrema

Being a lifeline crisis councilor was a key reason Nip Wijewickrema was nominated for Young Canberra Citizen of the Year. Photo: Michelle McAulay

“Phone calls I receive as a counsellor range from mental illness, relationship and life problems, domestic violence situations and suicide.  

“It can be difficult after particular phone calls that shake your world but it makes me feel so privileged to be in a position where I can provide qualified assistance,” she said.  

“More often than not, I walk out of the phone room with immense pride, pleasure and gratitude for the life I lead and the fact that I was able to be there for someone who has no one else.”  

Now 20, Ms Wijewickrema decided to become a Lifeline crisis counsellor at just 17, after watching many of her friends struggle with mental illness.  

“They would come to me for advice and while I was happy try to help, I was always aware that their lives were too precious for me to be giving false or wrong advice.”  

The decision to study journalism over psychology was difficult for Ms Wijewickrema, who was torn between the two careers.  

“I wanted a formal qualification in psychology but I also wanted to be a journalist. I chose journalism as that is where my passion lies so I made a bargain with myself and enrolled in the Lifeline Australia formal telephone counselling training course.”  

Ms Wijewickrema said the 18-months of training, which included conversations with real-life callers, “taught me so much about the world”.  

“Hundreds of heart-stopping conversations and emotion-filled training sessions later, I qualified as an accredited telephone counsellor,” she said.  

Integrating counselling with study and four jobs can be tricky, but Ms Wijewickrema said she is supported by her parents who help her “be the best possible person I can be”.   

“They raised me to want to work in the community, and they are so supportive of my endeavours. I was raised to always help others and put others before myself.”  

For help or support call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit their website