Frequently Asked Questions


Here are the questions potential volunteers ask us most often. If yours isn’t here, please don’t hesitate to email us at or call 0203 805 1790.

Do I need a background in psychology or mental health to be a volunteer?


No. Great volunteers can come from any background. It’s more important that you can show warmth and empathy, stay with difficult feelings and listen without judgement. It’s enough to have an interest in mental health as our training will give you the knowledge and skills you need.

Is there an age limit for volunteers?


Our work focuses on adults and, due to the content, volunteers generally need to be 18 or over. There is no upper limit and we are keen to attract older candidates with more life experience.

What level of commitment does SANE expect from me?


We ask volunteers to commit to one shift a week, with one a month at a weekend, and to stay with us for at least a year after probation. This allows you time to develop your practice and learn from a wide range of callers, who in turn gain more from experienced and committed volunteers.

How long are shifts and what times do they run?


Shifts last four hours. For SANEline and Textcare you can choose from the following times:

  • 4.30pm to 8.30pm
  • 5.30pm to 9.30pm
  • 6.30pm to 10.30pm

Office volunteer roles are also based on one four-hour shift a week, usually between 10am and 4pm, with days to be agreed.

I can't do some days in the week. Can I still volunteer?


That’s fine as you sign up for your own shifts. It’s more important that you can work one shift a week for a minimum of a year after your probation.

How much training and support can I expect?


Everyone attends a day of core skills training.

SANEline training currently runs for three days, usually over a weekend plus one evening the following week for successful candidates. You must be able to attend all the days to move on to taking calls. Training is one day plus one evening the following week for Textcare. Office volunteers do more of their training on shift.

During your first nine shifts as a volunteer you are actively supported by a shift lead who gives you feedback and helps you integrate what you learn. You also have a personal contact point in the services team.

We provide skills development sessions, usually once a month. To help your development there are further reviews after nine months, then annually, and you can request volunteer development reviews at any time if you need more input.

If you stay with us for a year or more, you can take on a more senior role.

I live outside London and would like to volunteer locally. Does SANE have other branches, or can I volunteer from home?


SANE’s offices are in Islington, north London, and our coverage is country-wide. All our volunteer roles are based in our offices due to the nature of the work and to make sure you have support whenever you need it.

That said, you don’t have to volunteer to become a member of the SANE community. There are lots of other ways to get involved and make a difference, such as fundraising, blogging or supporting our campaigns on social media.

Find out more ways to get involved.

Can I claim travel expenses? Could this turn into a permanent or paid position over time?


We can reimburse travel expenses up to the value of a one-day Travelcard within the Greater London area. Volunteer roles are designed specifically as voluntary positions. Paid positions are advertised internally and externally, and suitably qualified volunteers are welcome to apply.

What kind of references do you provide for volunteers?


The type of reference depends on how long you’ve volunteered with us. We provide more detailed references if you complete six months or more.

How to apply


To be considered for our current training cycle, please register your interest here.