Canada will have its emergency line to prevent suicide: 9-8-8

Canada will have its emergency line to prevent suicide: 9-8-8

At the end of November 2023, the CRTC will introduce a service to obtain immediate emergency mental health and suicide prevention assistance, 9-8-8

Canadians who those in need of immediate intervention in a situation of mental distress or suicidal risk will be able to dial or text 9-8-8 beginning Nov. 30, 2023, under a decision announced Wednesday by the CRTC.

Calls and text messages made through 9-8-8 will be directed to a mental health crisis or suicide prevention service. The service will be available anywhere in the country, at any time and free of charge.

In a press release, the CRTC said that the possibility of texting will allow people in crisis to obtain support when they can't call safely, or when they prefer to text.

Following the CRTC's announcement, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced that it will entrust the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CSTM) with the mandate to coordinate the delivery of services for the national three-digit number. As a first step, the agency wrote in a statement, CAMH will form partnerships and collaborations with leading organizations across Canada to begin building capacity, and consult with stakeholders to learn the scope and the requirements for fast, quality service.

The United States, which has introduced a similar emergency service, has also opted for 9-8 -8.

In Canada, experts had advocated for such a mental health service to be offered as soon as possible. We must adopt best practices from other countries and go beyond to do much better than what we are doing, said Sheryl Boswell, Executive Director of Youth Mental Health Canada, last July.

In Ms. Boswell's opinion, the 9-8-8 service avoids the use of law enforcement as is the case with 9-1- 1. It is therefore not police officers in uniform and in patrol cars who are called upon to intervene, which avoids criminalizing mental health, according to her.

In December 2020, the House of Commons voted unanimously in favor of Conservative MP Todd Doherty's motion to establish this centralized helpline system.

Todd Doherty, Conservative MP for Cariboo-Prince George, British Columbia, asks a question in the House of Commons. Mr. Doherty had tabled the motion which was adopted unanimously in the House for the establishment of the 9-8-8 line.

Wednesday, on learning that the 9- 8-8 was about to be premiered, Mr. Doherty burst into tears: It's a great day, he said.

Mr. Doherty, who lost his best friend to suicide as a teenager, says there is still work to be done to implement this hotline. But things are moving in the right direction, he says: every second and every minute counts and this service will save lives. claim lives every day, according to Statistics Canada. In Quebec, three people take their own lives every day, according to the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec.

In addition, Statistics Canada reports that in into the second year of the pandemic, the prevalence of recent suicidal ideation in Canada was higher than in 2019, before the pandemic.

People in need of help should call 9-1-1 or contact the following organizations:

  • Suicide Talk Canada 1-833-456-4566 (phone), text message 4 p.m. to midnight HE: 45645
  • In Quebec: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553), text message: 1 855- 957-5353
  • Youth Help Phone 1 800 668-6868
  • The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

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