Distress Centre Calgary

we serve these populations

  • aging population
  • children and youth
  • homelessness
  • immigrant newcomers
  • indigenous communities
  • veterans
  • women

we need help with:

  • mental health

Requesting $250000


Distress Centre Calgary has provided 24 hour crisis support to our community for 52 years. We have responded to over 2.5 million calls, emails, chats, texts and counselling requests since April 14, 1970. And we want to be here for all Calgarians who identify as being in crisis.

On March 17th, for the safety of our staff and volunteers, we closed our doors to visitors. Within a week, we mobilized 80 staff to continue 24 hour support to our community remotely from home. There was no disruption to our 24 hour services. Since 1970 our highly trained volunteers have been the heart and soul of Distress Centre; in 2019 our volunteers spent 44,763 hours in our contact centre supporting Calgarians in crisis, but the COVID-19 epidemic forced Distress Centre to use only staff during this turbulent time. This put incredible financial strain on our budget.

We are seeing an unprecedented need for our 24 hour crisis and 211 services.  We have noticed that since 2020, the people who contact us are experiencing increasingly complex issues. Calls that previously took about 20 minutes to complete (Low risk calls) are now taking about 50% more time. And  along with feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness/isolation, contacts at risk of suicide have increased dramatically. In 2012 approximately 8 – 12% of callers had suicidal thoughts, ideation, or a plan to die by suicide. It is now 25% of our calls and even higher since we added chat services in October 2021. Online, high risk chats are sitting at about 49% , almost 1 in 2. We know that prolonged social isolation can cause a post-traumatic stress response and feelings of confusion and anger.

The citizens of Calgary are in crisis. They need to know that they can call, email, chat and text Distress Centre for support. We have recently expanded the hours in which we offer chat and text, as we know our service users are more than twice as likely to discuss suicide online. We need your gift today so that we can continue to be a lifeline for people who are suffering during this very difficult time.


Our Story – Why We Exist

“Thank you all for the important work your Centre does. As a Psychologist working with folks who often express suicidal thoughts or experience crises, I greatly respect and honor the need for services offered by your team. I make sure to refer folks so they’re aware they have access to 24/7 services, and I’m grateful on behalf of my clients that the services are there.”


  • Distress Centre is Calgary’s only 24 hour crisis service.
  • We do not judge. We do not define crisis.
  • Anyone can call us day or night and ALL OF OUR SERVICES ARE FREE.
  • We’ve been providing crisis support in Calgary since 1970.
  • We offer service for the hearing impaired.
  • We offer our crisis line and 211 phone service in over 200 languages.
  • We answer the Family Violence Information Line, SeniorConnect, 403-SENIORS and the Bullying Help Line. The Mobile Response Team is accessed through our crisis line.
  • We are a $4.5 million dollar business but all of our services are FREE.
  • Distress Centre, 911 and Calgary Emergency Rooms are the only-after hours support for those in crisis.

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

See our 2021 Report to the Community.

Our Impact – What We Do

“Some days we save lives and some days we just help someone through a bad day.” – Jerilyn Dressler, Executive Director

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 |

  • In 2021, we responded to 152,272 crisis contacts; an increase of 13.7%.
  • Continued to expand and enhance the scope and delivery of Distress Centre’s high quality volunteer training program. We onboarded 175 new volunteers who completed the crisis intervention training. Volunteers gave 46,365 hours in our contact centre. 93% of surveyed volunteers report using their skills outside of Distress Centre.

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.

In 2021, we added in text for our general crisis line, a service that was previously only available through ConnecTeen. Anyone can now call or text to 403-266-HELP for peer and crisis intervention support. We became accredited with the American Association of Suicidology

Our 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 530 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, and weekends from 12-10pm, our volunteers are available to provide help in ways that are comfortable and safe for those seeking support and information. Email support is available at [email protected] and emails are responded to within 48 hours.

Counselling | Free short term professional crisis counselling is offered to individuals, couples and families in crisis. Get started by calling our crisis line at 403-266-4357 and asking for an intake to counselling, or by filling out an online intake here.

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 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 ab.211.ca.

Our 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.
For every dollar you donate to Distress Centre, we are able to create $7.42 in value. Learn more.

Volunteer  | Our highly trained volunteers are dedicated to providing compassionate support to those in distress. 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 referrals
    to callers on our 24-hour crisis lines. | Crisis Volunteer Application
  • Youth Program Volunteers – Volunteer with ConnecTeen. Provide peer support to youth in distress by phone, text, chat and email. Youth volunteers are accepted from ages 15-20. | Youth Program Volunteer Application


Are you a Calgary Foundation Fundholder?

Contact Info

Karen Gallagher-Burt

Director, Strategy and Engagement



More Info

Charity Number: #107021024RR0001

Visit our Website

Financial Statements / Annual Reports

Download PDF

Financial Statements / Annual Reports

Download PDF