Charitable Choices: Diane Jones Konihowski of Calgary Distress Centre

Distress Centre Calgary (DCC) provides 24-hour support, counseling, and referrals to a myriad of community resources – all free of charge. We got a chance to speak with Diane to learn more about DCC.

Charitable Choices: Diane Jones Konihowski of Calgary Distress Centre

Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.

Distress Centre Calgary (DCC) has provided 24-hour crisis support in Calgary and southern Alberta since 1970. We do this through our 24-hour crisis line, email, daily chat, and daily text for our youth. We also have professional counseling for clients with issues that cannot be resolved over the phone. If you need help finding a social, community, or government service, 211 is available by phone and online chat.

Our Coordinated Access and Assessment (CAA) program supports Calgarians experiencing homelessness out of the Safe Communities Opportunity and Resource Centre (SORCe). All of our services are free and confidential.

What problem does it aim to solve?

Our highly-trained volunteers, supported by staff, specialize in de-escalating crises. We do not define crisis so anyone can call us about any issue – suicide, anxiety/depression, isolation/loneliness, relationships, bullying, PTSD, domestic violence, addictions, etc. We are here to support Calgary’s most vulnerable 24/7 and we hope that people contact us first before their crisis escalates.

When did you start/join it?

I do not come from the social sector so when I accepted the position of Director, Fund Development & Communications in 2013 I had a lot to learn. All staff have to take the volunteer training and what I learned was that Distress Centre saves lives every day. It is an amazing agency that supports the whole social sector with its after-hours crisis and information support.

What made you want to get involved?

I was looking for a new challenge career-wise.  I come from high-performance sport, the arts, and business, so to work in the social sector has allowed me to truly appreciate the critical work we do to support Calgary’s most vulnerable. It is a real privilege working with the volunteers and staff at Distress Centre.

What was the situation like when you started?

For the first few years when I talked to the volunteers, I would ask how their shift was going. In a 4-hour shift, they may have received 1 or 2 “at-risk” calls. In the past 2 years, they can support up to 7 or 8 people who are having thoughts of suicide. COVID has really pushed many people over the edge. Contacts (chats, calls, texts, emails) are more intense. People are very angry. It has been very tough on our first responders. They are experiencing compassion fatigue and burnout, but we are there to support them through the really tough conversations. 36% of our conversations were suicide-related in May 2021.

How has it changed since?

I believe Distress Centre is more well known since I started in 2013.  My communications and fund development team have done a great job of thanking our donors and promoting all our services to all sectors. When COVID hit we had to go remote immediately.  We did this without interrupting our 24/7 service.  We now provide our service in the contact centre and remotely.

What more needs to be done?

People need to make the call to 403-266 HELP (4357) if they are in distress or call 211 if need a resource or information to help them solve their issue.

How can our readers help?

Funding is an ongoing issue. Because all of our services are free we need to fundraise to ensure we have enough staff and volunteers to support Calgary’s most vulnerable. We also need more volunteers. Anyone who is interested can go to our website and apply online.

Do you have any events coming up?

On September 23 we have our virtual signature fundraising event – Lend An Ear. Tickets can be purchased on this link:

Lend An Ear 2021

Where can we follow you?

People can follow us on the following social media channels:

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

Personally, I like charities that rescue and take care of animals.