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Q: What do I do if I think someone I know is suicidal?

A: Talk to them to establish how they feel. Just knowing someone cares for them can help to validate someone’s life and help them to feel less suicidal. Encourage them to call our (416) 408-HELP (4357) Line for non-judgemental support. If you are aware that someone is in danger, call 911.


Q: Where can I get a copy of my tax receipt?

A: Contact the Resource Development office at 416-598-0292 or to request a copy of your tax receipt. All donations processed through CanadaHelps and United Way will receive a tax receipt through those organizations. Any donations processed through our B.A.D Ride webpage will automatically receive a copy of their e-receipt by e-mail.


Q: Where does my money go?

A: For a full breakdown of how your money is spent, please see our How Your Donations Are Used page


Q: When was Distress Centres formed?

A: Distress Centres was formed in November 1967.


Q: Where can I get more information for a school project?

A: Contact our office at 416-598-0168 for further information.


Q: How can I apply for a job at Distress Centres?

A: We welcome resumes from individuals interested in working for Distress Centres; however, jobs will only be posted as and when they are made available.


FAQ’s on 408 HELP Line Volunteering

Q: How many volunteers does Distress Centres have?

A: We have approximately 550+ volunteers at three locations (downtown, North York and Scarborough)


Q: How many calls does Distress Centres receive?

A: We responded to over 82,000 calls in 02016.


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

A: This is a 24/7 crisis and distress line serving various 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 monthly overnight shift.


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, fulfillng the minimum commitment (see above), in order to receive a letter of reference.


Q: How long are the shifts?

A: Shift times vary, depending on the time of the day. The average shift length is around four hours, and the overnight shift is six or seven hours (from 11:00 pm or midnight to 6:00 am).


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 (downtown, North York and Scarborough).


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

A: We provide 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 counseling experience. Can I still volunteer?

A: Our volunteers come from many walks of life. Some do have backgrounds in counseling; 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.


FAQ’s on Survivor of Suicide Loss
& Survivor oF Homicide Loss Support Programs

Q: How many people participate in the Survivor of Suicide Loss or Homicide Loss Support Program?

A: Through a number of support channels, more than 500 individuals are helped annually.


Q: What is the training like for the Survivor of Suicide Loss or Homicide Loss Support Program?

A: We offer an engaging 30+ hour training format that follows an attitude, knowledge and skills model. Some of the topics covered include:

  • Understanding grief, and unique aspects of grieving a sudden, violent death

  • Challenging emotional reactions - anger and guilt

  • How to support survivors in face-to-face encounters; practicing our skills in interactive situations

  • Suicide risk assessment

The training is very interactive. There are opportunities to practice skills and use knowledge gained in small- and large-group role plays.


Q: What do you discuss in the support sessions?

A: Sessions follow weekly topics (guidelines are provided to volunteers) to create momentum, but the specific needs and concerns of a particular survivor will help set the direction of his/her support. You will have a chance to explore, with the survivor, how the loss has impacted them, and how the loss has affected their family and other members of their support network. You will also have an opportunity to discuss with the survivor their strengths and the challenges they face. It will also be important to explore how they are managing their reactions to the loss.


Q: Where are sessions held?

A: Normally, sessions are held in one of the three offices of Distress Centres: downtown, North Yorkand Scarborough.


Q: How are sessions scheduled?

A: Meetings usually take place during the day and evening, Monday through Friday. Consistent support is appreciated by program participants and an important part of what we offer. Sessions are scheduled after a consultation between members of the volunteer team and the program participant.


Q: How much time is involved in volunteering in the Survivor of Suicide or Homicide Loss Support Program?

A: Each week that you are actively volunteering involves between 3 and 4 hours of your time. This includes the sessions, scheduling, reporting and other activities.


Q: What are some of the volunteer and professional experiences that might be a good fit for the work you do?

A:  Telephone crisis line volunteer; hospice or palliative care; nursing; counselling.


Q: I am a volunteer on a distress line. Will I be accepted into training for the Survivor of Suicide or Homicide Loss Support Program?

A: It depends. The makeup of our volunteer corps depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to the number of survivors available for training. Additional considerations would include the length of service on the distress line (at least one year) and feedback from references. We do not permit volunteers to train for both the distress line and the Survivor Support Program at the same time.


Q: I am a survivor of suicide or homicide loss. How long should I wait before applying to volunteer?

A: An important consideration for you is timing. Generally, a minimum of two years after a significant loss is preferred. It is sometimes the case that those two years might not be long enough. You must be emotionally available to engage with program participants about complex feelings and be available to share, if asked, elements of your own loss without actively grieving at the same time.


Q: What happens after graduating from Survivor of Suicide Loss or Homicide Loss Support Program training?

A: We hope that you will be ready to start as soon as possible after training. We also encourage volunteers to participate in ongoing education after training. New volunteers will work initially with more seasoned volunteers, who will mentor them in their new role.


Q: How are volunteers supervised in the Survivor of Suicide Loss or Homicide Loss Support Program?

A: Volunteers report to the Program Manager. We encourage volunteers to debrief with us as often as required. We require volunteers to provide updates about session content on a weekly basis.

Who calls us?

Anyone who is going through a difficult situation and is in need of caring, and listening support. Callers are from all walks of life and diverse in every sense of the word (i.e. age, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc.). Most people who contact us are not suicidal.

Spectra Helpline is committed to maintaining an emotionally safe environment for helpline callers as well as call responders. Our role is to assist callers to deescalate their emotional intensity and meet immediate emotional needs. Abusive behaviours that interfere with our ability to provide support will not be condoned.

Thinking of Reaching Out to Spectra Helpline? 
Reaching Out Helps

We all face a variety challenges and difficulties in life and are trying to find the best ways to cope with these challenges. Reaching out to others for support during times of stress and difficulty, when we are trying to figure out what we want, how to cope, and how best to move forward, is a useful way to help ourselves to cope with difficulties and overcome challenges.

No matter how difficult our challenges or how upset we are, there are strengths and resources available that we can build on. For most people, a brief helping conversation is a very useful step in the right direction.

Our responders have received training in how to identify caller strengths and resources and how to help callers begin to take steps towards goals and solutions. When you reach out to us, responders will listen to your concerns and issues and ask questions to help you clarify and prioritize what you want help with - and also develop a clearer idea of where to start and what might be some helpful next steps. Most importantly, our responders will help you to identify and activate the strengths and resources that will help you to move forward.

A brief helping conversation of about twenty minutes can often be useful in getting on track toward the goals and solutions that will help you better face life’s challenges. People often find it useful to think of a question that they would like help with prior to reaching out – this helps to make our time together even more helpful for you.

What happens when you reach out to SPECTRA HELPLINE?

  1. Responders listen to your concerns, issues, and questions – and also ask questions about what you want to achieve.

  2. Responders will ask questions to help you clarify what you want and prioritize your issues so you have a clearer idea of where and how to start.

  3. Responders will help you identify the strengths and resources you can use to help build a solution to your challenges.

For most people in most situations, a good start can usually be made in about twenty minutes. We encourage you to reach out to us when you need support and want to make progress in facing life’s difficulties, finding good ways to cope, and overcoming challenges.


What do callers receive?

Our trained volunteers are able to listen to you any time day or night. We can help you talk through whatever is troubling you, find the answers that are right for you, and offer support.

Our callers get:

  • An accessible FREE telephone line service that’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

  • Confidentiality

  • Trained responders

  • A non-judgmental listener

  • Kind and empathetic support

  • Someone who cares

  • Referrals to community resources

When you call DCGT, you can expect your call to be treated with the strictest confidentiality. You will be invited to share whatever is upsetting you, at your own pace, and in your own words. You will connect with a kind, caring and empathetic listener. We understand when others can't.


How quickly will my call be answered?

All calls will be placed into a queue system to be answered by the next available responder. When your call is answered, you will speak with a volunteer responder who can provide you with emotional support in response to your crisis or issue.

We are committed to responding to calls as soon as possible. The Ministry of Health has established “within fifteen (15) minutes” as a guideline for crisis call response.DCGT has made it our priority to have all crisis/suicide calls answered within 15 minutes.

Sometimes on our general helpline, regretfully, the number of calls placed exceeds our capacity to answer immediately or within a short time frame. As one of the few after-hours community resources, this does occasionally occur. We apologize for the delay. We will answer your call as soon as possible. In the interim, if this is an emergency, please go to the nearest hospital or contact 911.