Volunteer Frequently Asked Questions

When you are considering applying to be a volunteer Crisis Line Responder at the Distress Centre, there are numerous questions that may arise. Below, you will find our most frequently asked questions and answers that may help you in your decision on applying to become a volunteer with the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region. If you have a question that is not listed here, we invite you to call our office at 613-238-1089 to speak with one of our staff members.

I'm interested in becoming a volunteer. How do I apply?

The best way to apply for a volunteer Crisis Line Responder position is to complete our online application form.

If you have difficulty accessing the application form or have infrequent access to e-mail, please call the Distress Centre at 613-238-1089 to request that an application form be sent to you by mail.

What kind of commitment does the Distress Centre require?

Once training is complete, volunteers are expected to provide a minimum of 1 year of service to the Distress Centre as a Crisis Line Responder.  This works out to approximately 4 shifts per month.  This commitment can further be broken down as 35 regular shifts and 15 overnight shifts during the year, with all shifts being 4 hours in length.  After the initial 1 year commitment is completed, volunteers may choose to answer calls for help during 1 to 2 shifts per month.

After I apply, what happens next?

Your application will be reviewed by the Distress Centre staff.  During this time, we may contact each of the 3 references you provided to us.  Once a positive response has been received from all references, you may be contacted by a member of our staff for a phone interview.  Following the screening process, you may be invited to join an upcoming volunteer orientation session.  For more information, please refer to the Screening Process section.

NOTE: We strongly recommend that you notify your references in advance that the Distress Centre may be contacting them shortly.

Is there a minimum age restriction to become a volunteer?

Yes.  You must be 19 years or older at the time you submit your application to become a volunteer Crisis Line Responder at the Distress Centre.

How many volunteers are there at the Distress Centre?

Currently, the Distress Centre has approximately 200 active volunteers Crisis Line Responders operating our phone lines!

Are all calls related to crisis and suicide?

In short, no.  While we do answer calls from people who are in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, we also receive calls from people who are simply looking for someone to talk to, from people looking for a community resource to help them, and from people who are just calling to thank us for our services.

What is included in the volunteer training program?

  • 5-6 weeks (59 hours) of comprehensive training on active listening, stress and crisis management
  • 2-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop
  • A free copy of the Distress Centre’s comprehensive training manual
  • Access to a complete community resource database to support callers
  • Free on-site parking, 24 hours a day
  • 24/7 support from Team Leaders
  • A formal letter of reference upon completion of the 1 year (200 hours) commitment

What benefits can I gain personally from being a volunteer?

Your personal gains will depend on how engaged you are during your experience at the Distress Centre.  Many volunteers will say they:

  • Learned from other individuals on an incredible team of volunteers
  • Received unique training on crucial issues such as how to diffuse crisis and prevent suicide
  • Developed their communication and listening skills
  • Feel better connected to others in the community
  • Feel they have made an impact in the lives of others
  • Gained new perspectives about themselves personally (experiences, feelings and behaviors)

What benefits can I gain professionally from being a volunteer?

Being a volunteer at the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region is not only a personally fulfilling experience but there are various benefits for your professional life as well, including:

  • Development of communication and active listening skills to integrate into your professional life
  • Ability to assess and diffuse crisis and/or high stress situations effectively
  • Increased knowledge of local resources available in the community
  • A letter of reference upon completion of your 1 year (200 hours) commitment for community involvement or academic purposes
  • Opportunity for post-secondary placement (specifically for people interested in the mental health field)