National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • 19-Oct-2021 to Until Filled (EST)
  • NAMI HelpLine
  • 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 in need of help. HelpLine Information and Resource Referral Specialists provide a vital service to the NAMI community by responding with empathy to inquiries by phone, SMS/chat, and social media posts, and by providing valuable information about mental health conditions and treatment options, NAMI education and support programs, and other mental health resources.

HelpLine Specialists help individuals and families improve their lives and advance recovery by listening to their concerns and connecting them with essential resources and services. They extend empathy, understanding, respect and emotional support to everyone contacting the NAMI HelpLine. In return, as interns they will develop a deep understanding of the mental health landscape, mental illnesses, treatment options and recovery strategies. They will also experience the appreciation and gratitude expressed by the individuals, families, and caregivers they serve.

Serving Remotely

Currently, all HelpLine Specialists are working from their homes, apartments or dorms and connecting with help seekers using NAMI's cloud-based communications platform by computer-based phone, SMS/chat, and email. Interns are required to have access to a computer with the most-recent operating system (Mac, PC or Linux) as well as high-speed internet.


Working with help seekers at the NAMI HelpLine is extremely rewarding and at times, challenging. It requires a commitment to learning, and our extensive training is designed to prepare you to address the many needs being presented by help seekers. The training consists of a total of 43 hours to be completed prior to the start of your first shift, including 31 hours of independent learning over a 3-week period, followed by three, 4-hour virtual coaching and observation sessions with HelpLine Specialists and Staff, to be completed over a 2-week period. 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 coaching and observation sessions, which are Staff-supported virtual sessions, are conducted during the 4th and/or 5th week over a series of Zoom meetings. All training is completed prior to the start of the internship commitment to serving our help seekers on the HelpLine.

Minimum Time Commitment Requirements

Please note the following time commitment requirements: 

  • Spring 2022 student internships* - a minimum of two, 4-hour shifts per week for a minimum duration of four months (January - April), regardless of when the goal of academic credits is achieved.

All shifts must be fulfilled during regular HelpLine hours within Shift #1: 10am - 2pm; Shift #2: 2 - 6pm; or Shift #3: 6 - 10pm Mon-Fri, Eastern Standard Time.

*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.

Ongoing Support

The NAMI HelpLine team strives to create a supportive "virtual" community for our interns!  Ongoing support is provided throughout each shift via cloud-based technology, and our staff and interns participate daily in two mid-day Zoom meetings 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 - 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, over the phone, email, or SMS/chat communication.
  • Analytical ability with problem-solving skills and resourcefulness for assessing a help seeker's 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.
  • Ability to conduct basic internet research quickly while simultaneously managing a phone conversation or SMS/Chat session.
  • 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.
  • 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 experiencing emotional distress or active psychosis.

National Alliance on Mental Illness
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