FAQ about Distress Line Volunteering

Q: How many volunteers does Distress Centres have?

A: We have 500 distress line volunteers at three locations (Central, North and Scarborough)


Q: How many calls does Distress Centres receive?

A: Each year, Distress Centres receives approximately 120,000 calls on our helplines.


Q: What types of calls do volunteers handle on the line?

A: This is a 24/7 crisis and distress line serving communities regardless of age, race, gender, culture and religion. Calls are concerned with a wide variety of issues, including situational distress, mental health challenges, bereavement, marginalization, domestic assault, abuse and suicide.


Q: What is the required level of commitment from volunteers?

A: Volunteers are required to commit to a minimum of one year, which includes one shift per week, as well as one of the weekly shifts being one overnight shift monthly.


Q: How long do I have to volunteer before I can receive a letter of reference for graduate school or employment?

A: Volunteers are expected to complete a full year of service, meeting the minimum commitment (see above), in order to receive a letter of reference.

As part of our commitment to volunteers, reference letters and confirmations of volunteerism are provided upon request to those who have fulfilled the specified requirements.  When providing reference letters, Distress Centres is only able to attest to a volunteer's skills, experience and personal qualities.  For clarity, reference letters and confirmations of volunteerism will note that Distress Centres volunteers engage in supportive counselling, but do not engage in psychotherapy, in the course of their volunteer work.


Q: How long are the shifts?

A: Shift times vary. The average shift length is around four hours, and the overnight shift is from 11pm or midnight to 6am.


Q: I work during specific times. How are shifts scheduled?

A:  We know that volunteers have busy lives, and we try to make scheduling as flexible as possible. Volunteers are able to select shifts that work with their schedule.  


Q: Can I take calls from home?

A: Unfortunately, it is not possible for volunteers to take calls from home. All the calls are responded to from one of our three locations.


Q: I’m a bit worried about talking to people about suicide. Will training be provided?

A: We provide about 40 hours of training, which is a combination of classroom and phone room preparation. As well, 24-hour staff support is available.   


Q: I have no counselling experience. Can I still volunteer?

A: Our volunteers come from many walks of life. Some do have backgrounds in counselling; however, this is not a requirement. As long as you have strong communication skills, this might be the right place for you!


Q: I’m looking to practice my language and communication skills. Would Distress Centres be a good place to get this type of experience?

A: Distress Centres is looking for volunteers who already possess strong communication skills. Unfortunately, this is not the most appropriate place to gain experience with language skills.