National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • 14-May-2019 to Until Filled (EST)
  • NAMI HelpLIne
  • Arlington, VA, USA
  • Internship/Volunteer

Are you interested in making a meaningful difference in people's lives? 

The NAMI HelpLine is contacted over 50,000 times a year by people across the U.S. who are affected by mental illness and needing help. HelpLine Volunteer/Intern Information and Resource Referral Specialists provide a vital service to the NAMI community by responding with empathy to inquiries by phone, email, written correspondence and social media posts, and by providing information about mental health conditions and treatment options, NAMI education and support programs, and other mental health resources. 

Volunteers and interns extend empathy, understanding, respect and emotional support to everyone contacting the NAMI HelpLine. In return, you'll gain extensive first-hand experience that allows you to develop an in-depth understanding of the issues surrounding mental illness and its impact on individuals with a mental health condition and their families. HelpLine volunteers and interns help individuals and families improve their lives and advance recovery by listening to their concerns and connecting them with essential resources and services. 

Serving Remotely

Currently, all HelpLine volunteers and interns serve in a remote capacity. Using cloud-based technology, volunteers are able to connect with NAMI's phone system to field calls from the comfort of their home. To do so, it's necessary for volunteers to have access to a computer with the most-recent operating system (Mac or PC) as well as high-speed internet.


Working with callers to the NAMI HelpLine is extremely rewarding and at times, challenging.  It requires a commitment to learning and our training is designed to prepare you to field the myriad needs of our callers.  The training consists of a total of @65 hours to be completed prior to the start of your first shift.  @40 hours of the training is conducted independently over a 4-week period, followed by five, virtual training sessions with HelpLine staff.  The independent learning portion is a combination of online learning modules and independent reading, as well as viewing of streaming online videos and documentaries.  The Staff-supported virtual training sessions are conducted during the 5th week over a series of Zoom meetings and are @ 4 hours each.  All training is completed prior to the start of the volunteer commitment to serving our callers on the HelpLine.   

Minimum Time Commitment Requirements  

Fall/Spring interns*  a minimum of two, 4-hour shifts per week for a minimum duration of four months  

Summer interns* a minimum of three, 4-hour shifts per week for a minimum duration of three months 

Volunteers - a minimum of one, 4-hour shift per week, for a minimum duration of six months  

*To receive academic credit, student interns often seek to work 16-20 hours per week during the semester.  It Is recommended that applicants work with their Academic Advisor regarding the option to earn academic credit for a NAMI HelpLine internship.  If desired, students may continue to serve in a volunteer capacity on a reduced schedule of 4 hours per week following the successful completion of their internship.  Scheduling of shifts is flexible, and NAMI works to accommodate student schedules.

All shifts must be fulfilled during regular HelpLine hours (AM shift:  10am - 2pm or PM shift:  2 - 6pm; Mon-Fri, Eastern Standard Time).  

Ongoing Support 

Although we serve our callers remotely, HelpLine staff work hard to create a supportive "virtual" community for our volunteers!  Ongoing support is provided throughout each shift via cloud-based technology, and staff and volunteers participate daily in a mid-day Zoom meeting to share experiences and information, and to answer questions.   

Professional Qualifications:

  • A student or professional of mental health, and/or someone with "lived," personal experience with a mental health condition and recovery - either as a person living with a mental health condition or as someone caring for a loved one living with a mental health condition
  • Excellent communication skills (oral and written), particularly in listening and ability to convey a respectful, empathetic tone, especially over the telephone
  • Preferred experience in a call-center or service-oriented position
  • Analytical ability with problem-solving skills and resourcefulness for assessing callers' needs and finding correct resources in a timely manner
  • Basic knowledge of mental illnesses, treatments, recovery, and mental health care systems with an interest in learning more
  • Minimum basic skills with MS Office (Word, Outlook, Excel) and social media; Intermediate keyboarding skills with minimum typing speed of 45 wpm
  • Ability to conduct basic internet research quickly while simultaneously managing phone conversation
  • Verbal bilingual English/Spanish ability strongly welcomed

Personal Qualities:

  • Demonstrated reliability, professionalism and punctuality
  • Respect and compassion for people affected by mental health conditions with desire to help others facing mental health challenges
  • Ability to manage emotionally stressful situations with positive spirit and open-mindedness
  • Passion to learn about mental health conditions, resources, and behavioral health system
  • Willingness to take initiative to seek help when needed, and ability to accept and implement constructive feedback
  • Maturity and patience to communicate effectively with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences while demonstrating empathy to facilitate respectful dialogue with callers who may be in emotional distress or active psychosis 
National Alliance on Mental Illness
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