In a step toward prioritizing mental health support, Canada is launching its nationwide crisis hotline, 988, on Nov.30, providing a free texting or calling service for Canadians struggling with mental health challenges.
On Monday, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett announced the government will be investing $156 million over three years to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) for the 988: Suicide Crisis Helpline, which was first announced last summer.
“Every day, an average of 12 people die by suicide in Canada,” Bennett said in a media release. “We are taking action to support people across the country who are in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts. Today’s investments take us one step closer to launching the 9-8-8 Suicide Crisis Helpline, which will provide an immediate, confidential, and judgement-free suicide prevention support for Canadians in need – when they need it most.”
On Nov. 30, the 988 suicide crisis line will be available to all Canadians in English and French, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. It will offer trauma-informed and culturally appropriate services by trained crisis responders by phone or text.
The idea for the service was first put forward in December 2020 by Conservative MP Todd Doherty as a way to establish a national suicide prevention hotline. The House of Commons passed it unanimously.
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It was then formally announced in August 2022, as a way for Canadians to access urgent help and show those struggling with mental health crises that suicide prevention is taken seriously.
Canada isn’t the only country to roll out a three-digital suicide hotline number.
In July 2022, the United States created its nationwide 988 crisis line.
“We have been working closely with our American counterparts on the implementation process and learning from their experience in launching and delivering this service,” Bennett said during the announcement Monday.
She added that the federal government has been working with partners, such as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), for over three years in order to implement this service.
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The initial focus of the service aimed at resolving technological hurdles, Bennett said. This is because for 988 to work across Canada, the CRTC said 10-digit dialling must first be introduced in areas where seven‑digit dialling is still the norm. This includes Newfoundland and Labrador, northern Ontario and the Yellowknife area.
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“At the same time, we need the capacity to make sure people are there to respond once technical solutions are put in place,” she added.
While work is still underway to introduce 988 in Canada, people can continue to access Talk Suicide Canada by calling 1-833-456-4566, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or via text to 45645 in the evenings. This service offers bilingual crisis and suicide prevention support.
Residents of Quebec can call 1-866-277-3553 or visit suicide.ca for support by text and online chat.
Children and young adults in Canada in need of mental health support and crisis services can contact Kids Help Phone, or text CONNECT to 686868 from anywhere in Canada, any time, about anything.
— with files from The Canadian Press and Aya Al-Hakim
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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