If you are considering setting up a volunteer service to provide emotional support to the distressed and suicidal, there are some important points to consider:

Identify the Need

  • Who are the potential users of the service?
  • What are the local needs within the area?
  • What is the suicide rate in your catchment area?
  • Which other agencies would have contact with callers?
  • What facilities already exist for people in distress? (e.g. telephone helplines, email helplines, drop-in centres); How adequate are they?

Involving the Local Community

  • Who could lend professional support? (e.g. social workers, community workers, psychiatrists, health workers, lawyers)
  • Are there other non-governmental or voluntary organisations with which you could collaborate? (e.g. working with older people, youth, disabled people, AIDS affected)
  • Is there a large enough group of people in the locality from which to recruit potential volunteers?
  • Is there potential to raise money to set up and maintain a service?

What Types of Service?

  • Telephone helpline
  • Emotional support service by correspondence (letter)
  • Emotional support service by email
  • Emotional support service by text (SMS)
  • Outreach programmes in the community
  • Combination of the above

Planning a Service

You Need to do the Following:

  • Form a group to explore the idea
  • Identify financial resources
  • Form a committee to get things started
  • Legally register the service
  • Identify, design and furnish premises
  • Select, recruit and train volunteers
  • Advertise the service to potential callers
  • Recruit sufficient volunteers to sustain a sustainable service

You Need to:

  • Establish the need for a service (use the checklist below to help you do this)
  • Be confident of, and be able to demonstrate, your ability to set up a sustainable service
  • Obtain sufficient funds to set up and maintain the service


Download a checklist of considerations for setting up a helpline (.pdf)

Download a Planning Framework for the establishment of a new service (.doc)

See also our Guiding Policies and Practice paper (.doc)