NEW UPDATE: Volunteer applications are now closed for the May through July training class. Please check this website for updates about the next training class in August.
Applications for San Francisco Suicide Prevention volunteer spots can be filled out online here
Please make sure you include your current resume and that you familiarize yourself with all of the requirements and responsibilities related to being a hotline volunteer before applying.
About Our Upcoming Training:
- Most of your questions will be answered here, so please take a moment and read everything below. Individuals interested in joining our Crisis Line/ Chat Service Volunteer Program must complete the application, add their resume’ and complete the training requirements addressed in the following Q&A.
- Before contacting us, please be sure that you can attend our scheduled dates for training. If you can’t make it to all the trainings, maybe we can meet you during the next round.
Please be patient as we process all submitted applications. We will contact you beginning in late November if we would like to interview you.
What are the requirements for becoming a volunteer at SFSP?
All volunteers must be at least 20 years of age. Some life experience with suicide, HIV/AIDS, studies in psychology, or social work is beneficial. Bilingual and bi-cultural candidates are strongly encouraged to apply. We are ADA compliant. New volunteers are required to sign a Volunteer Contract upon the completion of their training acknowledging their intention to commit to volunteering with us for one full year. We’re sorry, we do not have shorter volunteer hotline assignments at this time. Please check for other types of volunteer opportunities on this site. Due to the condensed nature of our weekend training, you must be present for all class time. You are allowed to miss one evening training class, with the expectation that you will make up this miss training class during the following training cycle.
How do I apply?
Read everything here and then submit a completed SFSP volunteer application and attach your current resume. Include your mailing address and phone number on your resume. Please give us at least a week after you’ve sent your materials to us before you make any inquires about the status of your application.
What happens next?
The next step is an initial (in person) interview with the Volunteer Coordinator and the Program Director. This takes about 45 minutes. Upon successful completion of the interview, we will contact you and let you know whether you have been accepted into the Volunteer Training Program. Due to space considerations, we can comfortably accept 15 applicants per training only. Applicants who are not accepted into the current training can be “wait-listed” until the next training at their discretion. Having an interview with us does not guarantee your acceptance into the program.
What qualities does SFSP seek in applicants?
Dependability, compassion, empathy, patience, balance, a desire to learn, a non-judgmental disposition, committed, punctual, confident, open-minded, focused, available, personable, respectful, considerate, reliable, diligent, responsible, …and present.
I’ve already been trained in suicide prevention. Do I need to go through the entire training?
Yes. In addition to the general suicide prevention training we offer, we also focus specifically on local issues and referrals that other agencies may not have addressed.
How much training is involved?
The volunteer training program offers 56 hours of instruction spread out over 8 weeks. New volunteers will attend classroom training for eight weeks on Wednesday evenings. While attending classroom training, trainees will begin “on the lines” for an additional four hours each week for eight weeks to practice the skills they are learning in class. The first two of these shifts are “observation” sessions, and the last four are monitored “phone shifts.” During these shifts, trainees answer calls under the guidance of an experienced crisis line trainer. Trainees should anticipate this time commitment in their schedules.
What is involved in training?
Our rigorous Volunteer Training Program offers instruction in active listening, risk assessment, crisis intervention, diversity, mental illness, and HIV/AIDS. All classwork is presented interactively and incorporates mini-lectures, role-plays, small group discussions, videos, and experiential exercises. Presenters have extensive experience in their fields.
How often are the training sessions?
We offer four trainings a year. Trainings may also include a weekend of an optional ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) workshop and are followed by eight evening classes. Mandatory class attendance is expected on the evening training classes. After the ASIST weekend, or during the second week of training, trainees are required to choose a weekly, four-hour phone shift with one of our trainers in addition to classroom training.
Does SFSP offer short term crisis line/internet chat volunteer positions?
No. Due to the extensive training that is necessary to do this line of work, we ask that all volunteers stay with us for at least one year doing one four hour shift each week.
I’m an international student interested in joining your organization when I’m in San Francisco. Can I volunteer just one time or for a shortened period of time?
Due to the extensive training that is necessary to do this line of work, we ask that all volunteers stay with us for at least one year doing one four hour shift each week. However, you may contribute to our mission by joining our outreach team.
Where do the training sessions take place?
All training and subsequent crisis work is done here on the premises. Our address is confidential so we will provide you with this information if you are chosen for an interview.
What if I can’t make it to all of the classroom training sessions?
Anticipated absences must be addressed during your initial interview. No more than one absence will be permitted while working with your experienced trainer and while in classroom training.
What if I can’t make it to my “observation” or “phone shift/online” training?
Trainees who cannot be at the agency and ready to participate fully in “observation” and/or “phone shift” training when scheduled should re-evaluate their actual availability to meet their commitment at this time.
How long do I have to complete training?
All training must be completed within 10 weeks of its initiation. A period of 2 weeks is granted to extend the on-line training process to allow for unexpected mishaps such as illness, death in family, or natural disaster. Trainees who cannot complete the necessary 8-week training period within 10 weeks will be required to meet with the Volunteer Coordinator during the training period at a mutually agreed upon time in order to reassess their appropriateness for this position going forward.
Are there fees involved?
Yes. A small fee of $65.00 covers the cost of an extensive training manual you will receive. Payment can be made by check written out to “SFSP” or with cash, due on the first night. Exact amount please.
When does the next training cycle start?
Our next training group is scheduled to begin on January 23, 2013.
What happens once I’ve completed training?
Upon successful completion of the training process, trainees will meet with the Volunteer Coordinator to determine their appropriateness for this work. If accepted into the program, they will be invited to work one four-hour shift per week for fifty weeks. This is approximately 200 hours. (Hour calculations begin after the training period is complete).
What is the Volunteer Crisis Line Job Description?
Our magnificent volunteers provide emotional support, information, and referrals to a diverse range of callers and chat visitors on all of the various crisis lines and chat services that we answer. We do all this within a harm reduction model.
I am only interested in training to answer one of your phone lines or chat. Can I just train for that role?
All volunteers must be trained on all lines that we answer, including our Internet chat services.
I’ve completed the training process. Is my acceptance guaranteed into the program?
No. Throughout the training process, our experienced trainers will monitor your performance and provide you with written and verbal feedback. At times, the trainers and trainees discover that this line of work may not be best suited for you. This will come as no surprise, as we encourage ongoing self exploration/evaluation and processing during all aspects of training, whether it is in the classroom or while working closely with your assigned trainer.
Can I take time off during my one-year commitment?
Whenever feasible, 2 weeks of vacation or other necessary time off can be negotiated with the Volunteer Coordinator and Program Director, two weeks prior to the desired time off. If you are planning on going away for an extended (more than two week) vacation during your year commitment, then this may not be the right cycle for you to begin volunteering with us. Please also note that you will be expected to begin your volunteer commitment right after completing your training.
What about other types of training?
In accordance with our commitment to enhance and promote the professional development of all volunteers, attendance at clinical trainings, ongoing seminars, and support meetings is highly encouraged. These include: Continuing Education Seminars, Cultural Diversity Seminars, Quarterly Program Evaluation Meetings, Training For Trainers, HIPAA Meetings, and Volunteer & Intern Support Nights. For further questions, contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Melodee Jarvis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of Special Note: Did you have a loss due to suicide?
Our wonderful volunteers and interns come to us for many reasons. For some, this is a supportive environment while being a student of the human services industry. For others, it is a way to honor a deceased loved one lost to suicide. And for others, it gives them a good feeling to know they are here to help others. Combined, this mix of people creates a special and safe place to help others in time of need. Because we are here to help our callers and chat visitors when they need help the most, we have a special request of you: if you have lost someone to a completed suicide attempt, please allow yourself one year to manage your own grief before applying to join us. This is a time for you to care for yourself. After a year or so, you may then be in a better place to “walk with others in their pain.”