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    Here’s Proof The National Suicide Hotline Is Taking Plebiscite-Related Calls

    Calls relating to the government's same-sex marriage plebiscite have been given their own category at the national suicide hotline.

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    A leaked screenshot from the database of the national suicide hotline suggests a spike in the number of calls relating to the government's proposed plebiscite on same-sex marriage, according to an internal source.

    BuzzFeed News

    An image received by BuzzFeed News shows the computer system used by Lifeline's trained suicide prevention workers during a phone call.

    Workers are asked to enter the "main reason for the call", and the first option now reads "2016 Marriage Equality Plebiscite".

    One Lifeline volunteer told BuzzFeed News new categories are updated when there is an increase in the number of calls relating to the subject.

    Vm / Getty Images

    But Lifeline would not confirm whether calls to its service about the plebiscite had increased.

    "Lifeline routinely records data about issues faced by communities be they natural disasters or key social issues," a spokesperson said.

    "As we only have begun to collect this data there is no trend to report in calls relating to the marriage plebiscite."

    Other categories recently added to the Lifeline system relate to the dairy farmers' crisis, the NSW greyhound ban and the royal commission into child sexual abuse.

    Lifeline volunteers are given specific training to deal with issues relating to each of these events.

    One of Labor's main lines of attack on the plebiscite is that an ugly public debate would lead to poor mental health outcomes, specifically more risk of suicide, among young LGBT people.

    Lisa Maree Williams / Getty Images

    "Every piece of expert advice tells us young Australians who are gay are more likely to contemplate suicide – and more likely to take their own lives," opposition leader Bill Shorten told the parliament as he introduced a private member's bill for marriage equality earlier this year.

    "Let me be as blunt as possible. A 'no' campaign would be emotional torment for gay teenagers. And if one child commits suicide over the plebiscite – then that is one too many."

    However, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has dismissed this line of attack, saying Shorten's argument "insults" and "disrespects" the Australian people.

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    Turnbull told the parliament that this argument presumes Australians "cannot be trusted to have a civil conversation".

    "[Shorten is saying] that the Australian public are so immature, so unbridled, so reckless that they cannot be trusted to have a debate and make a decision on this issue," he said.

    In an opinion piece for The Australian published last month, Liberal MP Tim Wilson said Shorten's comments had overstepped the mark.

    "Now let me be blunt, Mr Shorten," Wilson wrote.

    "While such lines may sound good in a political pointscoring war, it demonstrates a failure to understand the issue and the responsibility he carries with his office. Suicide is not a political plaything. It’s serious."

    If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit Lifeline.org.au.

    Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Mark Di Stefano at mark.distefano@buzzfeed.com.

    Lane Sainty is the editor of BuzzFeed News in Australia and is based in Sydney.

    Contact Lane Sainty at lane.sainty@buzzfeed.com.

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