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Volunteer

Being a volunteer at the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region is an incredible experience that will not only change the lives of others, but one that will enrich your own life as well!

Thank you for your interest in becoming a Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region volunteer!

Our goal is to provide prospective volunteers all the information needed to become a volunteer Crisis Line Responder so that they are better able to determine if joining the Distress Centre Team is the right choice for them.

As a starting point, those who get the most out of volunteering with us and who are most helpful to our clients are emotionally mature, stable, calm, empathic and above all else, they are extremely good listeners.

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VOLUNTEERS HERE TO LISTEN

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CALLS ANSWERED TO DATE

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VOLUNTEERS TRAINED SINCE 1969

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AVAILABLE COMMUNITY RESOURCES

Volunteer Position Description

Our volunteers are the heart of our organization.  They give us and our callers the most precious gift - their time.  Find out more about what being a volunteer at the Distress Centre is all about here.

Position Description

We support people in varying degrees of distress or crisis who are experiencing a wide range of problems including, but not limited to: suicidal ideations, abuse or violence, mental or physical illness, bereavement, addictions, sexuality and interpersonal problems, youth-related issues, unemployment and more.

Our volunteer Crisis Line Responders are trained in active listening techniques, communication skills, crisis intervention and suicide prevention/intervention techniques. They help clients assess their own situations, establish goals and priorities, and link callers to pertinent resources in the community, if needed.

Training

The Distress Centre’s award-winning volunteer training course (compulsory for all volunteers before answering calls) allows our volunteers to:

  • Provide callers who are in crisis or distress with immediate emotional support, in response to urgent needs
  • Work collaboratively with callers
  • Communicate genuine concern for each caller
  • Be accepting of the feelings the caller may have and supportive of their decisions
  • Be encouraging and empowering with callers
  • Share knowledge of community resources to allow the caller to be aware of all possible options
  • Follow the direction of professional staff in reference to callers who require a specific management program

Must Knows

At all times, our volunteer Crisis Line Responders are required to adhere to the policies of the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region, particularly where confidentiality is concerned. Our policy states, in part "The service provided at the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region is offered on the understanding that callers' rights to confidentiality will be respected by all volunteers and staff".

Volunteer Crisis Line Responders agree that they will:

  • Respond to callers using a non-judgmental, unbiased & non-directive approach
  • Be responsible for the shifts (4 hours in length) assigned to them (failure to report for shifts may result in dismissal)
  • Attend in-service educational training when offered
  • Never breach the confidentiality of a call or disclose the location of the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region to anyone

Volunteer FAQ

How do I apply?  How many hours is the commitment?  What is training like?  What type of background check do you do?  All of the answers you're looking for can be found in this section!

Volunteer FAQ

Must Knows

At all times, our volunteer Crisis Line Responders are required to adhere to the policies of the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region, particularly where confidentiality is concerned. Our policy states, in part "The service provided at the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region is offered on the understanding that callers' rights to confidentiality will be respected by all volunteers and staff".

Volunteer Crisis Line Responders agree that they will:

  • Respond to callers using a non-judgmental, unbiased & non-directive approach
  • Be responsible for the shifts (4 hours in length) assigned to them (failure to report for shifts may result in dismissal)
  • Attend in-service educational training when offered
  • Never breach the confidentiality of a call or disclose the location of the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region to anyone

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 behaviours)

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)

Volunteer Screening Process

We ask that you please read the following step-by-step explanation of our screening and selection process prior to submitting your application.

Volunteer Screening Process

Step One: Application Form and Police Records Check

The first step in our screening process is for you to complete the application form and return it to us.  Filling out our application form is lengthy so we ask that you set aside 30 to 60 minutes so you can take the time to complete it as thoroughly and honestly as possible.  Please note that there are no right or wrong answers to the questions on our application.  All submitted applications are considered strictly confidential.  As a condition of acceptance to our volunteer training program, you will be required to provide a copy of an updated Police Records Check to be kept on file by the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region.  All directors, staff and volunteers are required to provide an updated Police Records Check every two years.

Step Two: References

When we receive your application, more information will be sent to you by e-mail.  The 3 references you provided may be contacted by phone or e-mail.  We ask that you please notify your references prior to applying to ensure that they are comfortable with providing a reference on your behalf.  Your application will not be processed without the names and coordinates of 3 references.

Please note that we cannot accept references from family members and/or partners/spouses.

Step Three: Attend the Pre-Training Orientation Meeting

Once your application has been accepted, we have spoken with your 3 references and received your updated Police Records Check, you are required to attend our Pre-Training Orientation Meeting.  Here, you will join a group of approximately twelve other applicants for a two-hour evening meeting to learn more about the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region.  This meeting is an information session including a questions & answers session.

Step Four: Completion of Training Program

And to conclude, you will be required to attend 2 observation shifts (4 hours per shift) where you will be paired with a veteran volunteer, first to listen to the Crisis Line Responder answering calls and demonstrating the use of the Centre’s technology and, second, to answer calls for help and work with the new technology.

Please Note: 
The Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region respects your privacy.  We are committed to protecting your personal information and adhere to all legislative requirements with respect to your personal privacy.  While applicants may be screened out at any point of our process, you are also in no way obligated to make a commitment to the Distress Centre until acceptance into our training program.

55+ Volunteer

You've found yourself at a new stage in your life, where you are ready to fill some of your time with providing support to those dealing with their mental health, so now what?

Volunteer 55+

We want you to join our volunteer team!

Congratulations on this new stage in your life, where you've completed your years of employment and you're enjoying your retirement. Or maybe, you've been a stay-at-home partner in a relationship, and you're now feeling that it's time to start something new.  Maybe you're feeling a void in your life that you want to fill with something good.  Whatever brought you here to look at our 55+ volunteer program, we're happy to have you!

As a member of society of the 55+ age demographic, we understand that you are at a different place in your life with commitment, time restraints, and comfort.

Perks to being a part of our 55+ volunteer program?

  • No overnight shifts
  • Flexible schedule, so if you're a morning person, or more of an afternoon go-getter, these shifts are in high need for us. Evenings and weekends are also available, if that is your preference.
  • Only 1 x 4 hour shift a week are required for a total of 144 hours for a 1 year commitment

Our goal is to provide you with all of the information needed, so that when you're ready to apply, you'll know exactly what we are all about.

As a starting point, those who get the most out of volunteering with us and who are most helpful to our clients are emotionally mature, stable, calm, empathetic, and above all else, extremely good listeners.

Ready to apply?  Let's get started!

Student Placement

A Student Placement with the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region helps students (ages 19+) gain valuable experience needed to enter the workforce.  Space is limited and very unique to the Distress Centre.

Student Placement

Placement students answer all distress and crisis lines and, as a result, speak with callers who are in need of emotional and mental health support as well as crisis intervention.  The experience garnered from this front-line work is complementary to studies in disciplines such as Social Work, Psychology, Criminology, Police Foundations, Paramedics and Health Services, just to name a few!

Note: Students who are eligible to receive credits from their program of study may apply as placement students.  However, it should be noted that, given the amount of time required to complete our training program and placement commitment, not all placements will be an appropriate match with our agency.

Student Development

As a Placement Student, you will develop & receive:

  • Communication skills
  • Intervention techniques
  • The Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop certification

Important!

Before answering our phone lines, all Placement Students must complete our volunteer training program which takes place over the course of 5 to 6 weeks. These training hours are counted as part the overall student placement commitment.  Once the volunteer training program has been completed, students are required to commit to a minimum of 200 hours answering calls for help.  If you feel ready to take on this challenge, fill out our online application to get started!

Additional Benefits

Above & beyond what you will gain as a Placement Student with the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region, you will receive a letter of reference at the end of your commitment.  This letter of reference has been used by former Distress Centre volunteers in the past to gain acceptance at universities and colleges across Canada, and to secure employment in various police forces and paramedic services.

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Upcoming Training Dates

January/February Training

You will be considered for all upcoming training classes, so there is no obligation to choose an option at this time, but we would love for you to let us know your top choices!

Training Dates

Option A – Tuesday & Thursday Evenings + 1 Weekend

Tuesday & Thursday Evenings 6:00-9:00pm, plus one (1) weekend (Saturday & Sunday)

Session 1: Tuesday, January 21

Session 2: Thursday, January 23

Session 3: Tuesday, January 28

Session 4: Thursday, January 30

Session 5: Tuesday, February 4

Session 6: Thursday, February 6

Two Day ASIST Workshop

Saturday, February 8 & Sunday, February 9 from 8:30am-4:30pm (includes 1hr lunch)

Session 7: Tuesday, February 11

Session 8: Thursday, February 13

Session 9: Tuesday, February 18

Session 10: Thursday, February 20

Session 11: Tuesday, February 25

Session 12: Thursday, February 27

Option B – Monday & Wednesday Evenings + 1 Weekend 

* All sessions are from 6:00pm-9:00pm. 

Session 1 – Wednesday, January 15 

Session 2 – Monday, January 20  

Session 3 – Wednesday, January 22   

Session 4 – Monday, January 27     

Session 5 – Wednesday, January 29   

Session 6 – Monday, February 3 

Session 7 – Wednesday, February 5    

 

Two Day ASIST Workshop – Saturday, Feb. 8th and Sunday, Feb. 9th (8:30am-4:30pm *includes 1hr lunch)

Session 8 – Monday, February 10 

Session 9 – Wednesday, February 12 

Session 10– Wednesday, February 19  

Session 11 – Monday, February 24  

Session 12– Wednesday, February 26

October/November Training

You will be considered for all upcoming training classes, so there is no obligation to choose an option at this time, but we would love for you to let us know your top choices!

Training Dates

March/April Training

 

Information coming soon. Please check shortly.

 

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It's no secret that our call volume continues to grow year over year, and that our need for volunteers is high!  If becoming a volunteer Crisis Line Responder for Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region volunteer is an adventure that you'd like to take with us, then please, click the button below to begin your volunteer application.  We need amazing, compassionate and caring people like YOU to be there when the phone rings!

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