PARO Helpline (partnered with Professional Association of Residents of Ontario)
In collaboration with the Professional Association of Residents of Ontario, a dedicated, confidential Distress Centres-operated helpline was established in 2001. This service offers Ontario-wide emotional support and crisis intervention to medical students and residents, as well as their families. Distress Centres was asked to initiate this project in recognition of its long history of effective, anonymous response to those experiencing situations of intense distress and its ability to function as a point of first access for those at risk for suicide. PARO volunteers are selected from Distress Centre's 408-HELP Line active volunteer pool every year by staff and required to attend specialized training.
Distress Centre works collaboratively with medical and mental health professionals to ensure that those at risk are made aware of Distress Centres 24 Hour service. Various agencies, doctors, and psychiatrists leave the Distress Centres phone number on their answering machine for after-hours support.
EMS Warm Transfer Line (partnered with Toronto EMS)
In January of 2006, Distress Centres began its partnership with Toronto’s Emergency Medical Services in the provision of a dedicated warm transfer line for suicidal callers. While at-risk individuals who have already provided their contact information are waiting for the arrival of an ambulance, the dispatcher transfers the call to our phone room so that a trained volunteer can provide compassionate crisis support until EMS arrives on the scene. This program frees up the relatively more costly EMS dispatcher to respond to other emergencies, while at the same time providing the most appropriate emotional care for the distressed individual. It also familiarizes callers experiencing chronic mental health concerns with a new resource which they can access independently in the future.
Crisis Link (partnered with TTC)
On June 16th, 2011, Distress Centres, in partnership with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and Bell Canada launched the first and only world-wide initiative, to help prevent subway suicides and offer hope to those at-risk of suicide in Toronto’s subway system.
Called “Crisis Link”, the program includes posters on every subway platform asking, “Thinking of Suicide? There is help. Let’s talk.” The posters encourage those contemplating suicide to use the payphone located on every subway platform, and the new direct dial button that now connects callers with a trained crisis counselor at Distress Centres. The phone call is free and confidential. Distress Centres' staff work as a team and will contact TTC’s Transit Control Centre to implement the appropriate measures to ensure the individual remains safe if needed.
The phones link to a dedicated crisis line operated by Distress Centres during all hours the transit system is in operation. The accompanying awareness campaign makes very clear what it is they're trying to prevent. It’s the first time, says Distress Centres’ Executive Director, Karen Letofsky, that the word "suicide" has been used in subway advertising in the city. “Most importantly, this initiative enables us to truly meet those in need “where they are at””.
ONTX - Online Text & Online Chat Services
Distress Centres in partnership with Distress and Crisis Ontario, Distress Centres Durham, SPECTRA, and Community Torchlight, has identified an online service delivery channel that can enhance access for younger and more vulnerable callers, helping us meet their needs and build for future generations. We have improved and integrated our telephone based services by adding this new technology infrastructure. This new online chat and text service has linked to our partner agencies to create the first of its kind, provincially integrated, online crisis support system. This will help ensure that youths from multiple communities accessing the program will be guaranteed support.
Every year, in addition to responding to hundreds of requests for information on suicide prevention, crisis intervention, and violence prevention, we work with diverse groups to support their training initiatives, development of response protocols and program design.
Partnership with Provincial Distress & Crisis Line Services
Distress Centres supports province-wide initiatives and development of distress and crisis line services Provides support and consultation to provincial association of distress centres. We are a member of Distress and Crisis Ontario (formerly Distress Centres of Ontario)
Throughout its long history as Toronto’s emotional safety net, the agency has also assisted in the establishment of essential local, provincial and national organizations promoting suicide and violence prevention and mental health support:
1971 - Distress Centres Ontario
1972 - The Metro and Area Distress Centres
1977 - The Canadian Council of Crisis Centres
1982 - The Toronto Council on Suicide Prevention
1984 - The Canadian Association on Suicide Prevention
1985 - The Assaulted Women’s Helpline
1991 - Drug Helpline Project (Ontario-wide)
2000 – merger of Distress Centres under one number: 416-408-HELP 2001 – developed 24-hour helpline with PARO for members of the medical profession and their families
2005 – Survivor Support Program expanded to include homicide support
2005 – Integration of Etobicoke Telecare and relocation of merged operations in North York
2006 – Partnered with City of Toronto and Emergency Medical Services to create warm transfer line for high-risk calls
2008 – partnered with Toronto Public Health and their Psycho-Social Emergency Response and Recovery Services
2008 – Launch of Caller Reassurance Program
2011 – Partnered with TTC and Bell to develop Crisis Link, a dedicated direct line to Distress Centres located on each subway platform
2012 – Caller Reassurance Program for Seniors launched
2012 - Launched the City's first Community-Based Suicide Prevention Centre and E-Library
2015 - Partnered with Distress Centres Ontario, Distress Centres Durham, SPECTRA, and Community Torchlight to launch Ontario's Online and Text Crisis and Distress Service (ONTX).