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expanded breadth and reach of services

Since 1967, Distress Centres has provided 24-hour support, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to individuals in our community at risk and their most vulnerable. We are Canada’s oldest volunteer delivered crisis, emotional support and suicide prevention + intervention + postvention service agency.

After amalgamating with Spectra Helplines (founded 1973 in Peel), our reach and breadth of our services has now expanded to include multilingual language lines, enhanced support for isolated seniors and a transitional support program for those aged 16+.

We are very proud of our combined history of providing support to persons in distress and need. With a combined history of more than 100 years, our distress lines have been there 24/7 for anyone experiencing isolation, stress, anxiety, abuse, depression, emotional pain, mental health issues

HISTORY OF Toronto Distress Centre

Distress Centres supports province-wide initiatives and development of distress and crisis line services Provides support and consultation to the 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: 

1967 - Organization founded

1971 - Officially named 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).

2017 - In partnership with business and Distress Centres from across Canada, Distress Centres was instrumental in launching Crisis Services Canada, and their National Canadian Suicide Prevention Service in November 2017.  A milestone for Canada that sees all of the people of Canada having access to immediate suicide and crisis support.

2019 - Formal merger of Spectra Helplines (Peel) with Toronto Distress Centres, expanding our Reach and Breadth of services across the GTA

HISTORY OF Spectra helpline (peel)

Founded in 1973 and run by dedicated staff and trained volunteers, our centres across the GTA provide 24 hour emotional support and distress line service in English every day of the year.

Spectra Helpline's volunteers must complete 50 hours of in-class and on-line training in order to take calls on the distress lines. Our training program focuses on listening skills, values clarification, crisis/suicide prevention/intervention, mental health, understanding sexuality, volunteer development and more.

Spectra Helpline also provides on-going training sessions for current volunteers to keep their skills updated. The primary purpose is to ensure that volunteers feel comfortable in offering non-judgmental emotional support to anyone calling our different programs. We believe that our volunteers make the difference! As a gesture of our appreciation, they are recognized through numerous social occasions.

In order to respond to the growing needs of the diverse community in the Region of Peel, Spectra Helpline has expanded to include distress line and crisis intervention support in various other languages in addition to English, as well as for people with disabilities and the LGBT community. The centre launched distress lines in Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu in 2005, Spanish in 2007, Portuguese in 2009. Mandarin and Cantonese distress lines are the latest additions. These specific distress lines are accessible Monday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

It is forecasted that by 2031, adults 55 years of age and older will make up almost 30 per cent (443,000) of Peel's projected population of 1.5 million people. This represents nearly triple the 2001 older adult population in Peel. Our contribution to assisting this aging population 55+ is our TeleCheck program, initiated in November 2008. This program consists of regular safety check-in and reassurance phone calls by trained volunteers and staff. The main objective is to assist older adults in living at home with dignity, respect, and independence. The TeleCheck program is provided in English, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Spanish and Portuguese.

A solid foundation laid from inception has helped Spectra Helpline deliver outstanding community programs and services. We look forward to continuing to serve the region of Peel. We are also extremely grateful for the ongoing support that we have received from The United Way of Peel Region, The Region of Peel, and The Ontario Trillium Foundation. For additional information, please e-mail us at: info@torontodistresscentre.org, or call us at (289) 569-1200 - Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

More history:

Distress Centre of Peel

In 1972, the drowning of a Mississauga mother and her two children were thought by police to have been a murder-suicide. In response to this tragedy, a group of concerned citizens founded Distress Line Mississauga in 1973, so that anyone else in pain or crisis would always have a place to turn. As fate would have it, Mary Fix, a lawyer, suffragette, entrepreneur and politician, died in 1972 and left her home, (built in 1939), to the City of Mississauga - where it was rented to the Distress Line for a dollar a year (and still is today). In 1979 Distress Line Mississauga changed its name to Distress Line Peel, and in 1994 changed its name to Distress Centre Peel in order to better reflect the services being provided to the public.

Telecare Brampton Inc.

The model for a crisis intervention telephone ministry originated in Sydney, Australia in 1963. At that time, the Rev. Alan Walker of Sydney's Central Methodist Mission saw a need to reach isolated members of the public and founded the "LifeLine" program. They changed the LifeLine name to Telecare in 1970, and in 1975 Telecare Brampton was founded. Starting in 2005, and in order to respond to the needs of the increasingly diverse community of the Region of Peel, Telecare Brampton became anon-denominational service, and expanded to include support in 7 other languages in addition to English.

Spectra Community Support Services (Operating as Spectra Helpline)

In order to improve service to the Peel community, and after 39 and 37 years respectively, Distress Centre of Peel and Telecare Brampton legally merged creating Spectra Community Support Services (operating as Spectra Helpline), effective December 30, 2012,. We are very proud of our combined history of providing support to persons in distress and need. For the past 42 years, our distress lines have been there 24/7 for anyone experiencing isolation, stress, anxiety, abuse, depression, emotional pain, mental health issues, for those just simply dealing with the difficulties of life, and for those in crisis or considering suicide. On average, Spectra Helpline makes and receives over 100,000 calls each year: 1 call every 5 minutes. Approximately 345 carefully selected, intensively trained volunteers lend over 30,000 hours of support annually. And to date, Spectra has trained 5,282 volunteers who reside or work in the Region of Peel.