Distress Centre Calgary

We provide Calgary’s only 24 hour crisis service. We do this through 24/7 phone and email support and daily online chat. We offer face-to-face professional counseling and a 24/7 information and referral service through our 211 service. We offer our 24/7 phone support in over 200 languages. Our ConnecTeen service provides peer support to youth through daily text and chat, and 24 hour email and phone. We do not judge, we do not define crisis. Anyone can call us day or night and ALL OF OUR SERVICES ARE FREE.

Distress Centre LogoOur Story Why We Exist

"For 3 years you helped me. I am a victim of abuse/violence. I spent 40 years in silence. Somehow I found your phone number. I called 266-HELP. Thank you so much for existing. Thanks for all the many nights and days over the three years you supported me on the phone. I am safe now."  - Crisis line caller

Fast Facts:

  • Distress Centre is Calgary’s only 24 hour crisis service.
  • We have been providing 24 hour crisis support in Calgary and southern Alberta since 1970.
  • Sometimes we save lives, and sometimes we simply help someone get through a really bad day.
  • Distress Centre, 911 and Calgary Emergency Rooms are the only-after hours support for those in crisis.
  • Our 240 active volunteers respond to over 105,000 calls, chats, emails and texts each year.
  • In 2016 we saw a 10% increase in crisis contacts (calls, chats, texts and emails) and a 3% increase in contact volume overall.
  • We saw a 34% increase in crisis chat in 2016, from 2015.
  • We answer the Seniors Connect, Family Violence and Bullying Help lines.
  • We offer service for the hearing impaired.
  • We offer our crisis line and 211 service in over 200 languages.
  • We are here to serve Calgary’s most vulnerable 24/7 365 days of the year.
  • We are a $4.5 million dollar business but all of our services are FREE.

To find out more about what we do please visit our website.

Post-it with HELP messageOur Impact What We Do

"Some days we save lives and some days we just help someone through a bad day."– Jerilyn Dressler, Distress Centre

Our Mission | Provide compassionate, accessible crisis support that enhances the health, well-being and resiliency of individuals in distress.

Our Vision | Everyone is heard.

Our Values | Accessibility, collaboration, compassion, excellence, inclusivity, innovation, leadership, partnerships, respect, and volunteerism.

Our Impact | 2015 Annual Report

  • Crisis Service | We answer a call for help every five minutes and we make sure they’re all heard 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Calgarians need your help today. In 2015, we've seen an 18% increase in chats; a 4% increase in emails; and a 3.5% overall increase in contacts.
  • 211 Service | Our free information and referral service is offered in over 200 languages 24/7. In 2015, 26,300 calls answered; fourth quarter calls were up significantly and 93% of callers indicated they had a better understanding of their needs as a result of that call.
  • Counselling | Free face-to-face professional counselling is offered to individuals, couples and families. In 2015, 2,285 sessions were delivered (an increase of 24%); also, there was an 81% increase in counselling intakes and a 42% increase in counselling contacts. 
  • Basic Needs Fund | In emergency situations we provide direct client support and counselling to those facing financial difficulties. In 2015, $139,287 was distributed directly to clients; 67% of clients were connected to other support services, and 71% of clients reported their situation improved.

Our History | On April 14th, 1970, the Drug Information Centre opened its doors to provide drug information and education, crisis intervention and research anytime, day or night. In 1977, The Drug Information Centre changed its name to Distress Centre/Drug Centre and was accepted as a member of the United Way. In 1980, Distress Centre launched Canada’s first peer-to-peer youth crisis program – the teen line, which was later renamed ConnecTeen.

In 1999, Distress Centre continued to experience tremendous growth as we introduced several new programs and partnerships including the Mobile Response Team. In 2005, Distress Centre, along with the City of Calgary and United Way, launched 211. This further established Distress Centre as the hub of crisis support and the “go-to” place for community referrals in Calgary. In 2010, Distress Centre celebrated its 40th Anniversary with one memorable crisis line number, 403.266.HELP (4357), and continued to provide free professional counselling to individuals, couples and families in crisis. In 2012, Distress Centre launched their online services from 5-10PM daily.

In 2013, following the June floods, Distress Centre responded to an over 40% increase in help-seeking calls to 211. In July, the 211 service is expanded to High River to help those impacted by the floods. In November 2013, ConnecTeen launched their texting service.

In 2016, 211 played a critical role in supporting the Fort McMurray/Wood Buffalo evacuees when wildfires ravaged the area in May. 211 provided evacuees with up-to-date information and connected donors/volunteers with agencies they could support. Online chat was launched province-wide to give evacuees another way to contact 211. 211 collateral and staff were also available at evacuation centres.

Phone caller on our crisis line at 403-266-HELPOur Programs How We Do It


24/7 Phone Support | All calls to our crisis line at 403-266-HELP (4357) are confidential. Calls are responded to by over 240 highly trained volunteers supported by professional staff.  

Daily Online Chat | For those who are not comfortable picking up the phone, we have daily online chat and email support on www.distresscentre.com.  Every evening from 3pm -10pm our volunteers are available to provide help in ways that are comfortable and safe for those seeking support and information. On weekends chat is open from noon-10pm.

Counselling | Free short term professional crisis counseling is offered to individuals, couples and families in crisis.

ConnecTeen | ConnecTeen is Distress Centre’s youth peer support service offering youth/teens a choice in how to connect with help – by phone 24/7 at 403-264-TEEN (8336) or through daily online chat, texting or email at www.CalgaryConnecTeen.com. The youth peer texting service was the first program of its kind in Canada.

211 | This 3 digit number you to thousands of community, social, and government services in Calgary and area. The multilingual service is offered 24/7, in over 200 languages, at no cost to the caller. Daily online chat is also available at www.ab.211.ca.

Reminder: Help Me Feel Like I BelongOur Requests What You Can Do

Listening Saves Lives | Make a donation and support an individual, couple or family experiencing crisis. 100% of your donation supports our crisis services and ensures that everyone is heard 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Thank you.  Donate.

Volunteer  | Over 240 highly trained volunteers dedicate their time to support people in crisis. We provide the training and support they need to be comfortable and successful in their role. Volunteers are the heart and soul of Distress Centre’s success, and we pride ourselves on creating lasting relationships with them.

  • Crisis Line Volunteers - Provide support, crisis intervention, information and referralsto callers on our 24-hour crisis lines. | Crisis Volunteer Application
  • Youth Program Volunteers - Provide peer support, crisis intervention, informationand referrals to youth and their families on our ConnecTeen’s telephone line or dialy online support forum. Youth volunteers are accepted from ages 15-21. | Youth Program Volunteer Application


Diane Jones Konihowski
Senior Manager, Fund Development and Communications
Charitable Number: 107021024RR0001

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