The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is working to improve access to suicide prevention and mental health support.
The PHAC’s work includes reviewing the implementation of a national three-digit suicide prevention phone number.
“This number would be faster to dial. It will provide people across Canada with a phone number that is simple to remember, even in a time of crisis, so that they can easily reach out for help,” a government of Canada media release said.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) determined that 988 will be the three-digit number used to access support either through call or text.
“The CRTC’s determination in favour of introducing a three-digit line for suicide prevention and mental health crisis in Canada is a critical milestone,” the release said. “The Government of Canada recognizes the impact suicide has on families and communities and is committed to ensuring that everyone in Canada has access to critical mental health resources and suicide prevention services, no matter where they live.”
Work is underway to introduce the 988 number in Canada by the fall of 2023, but until then, Canadians can continue to call 1-833-456-4566, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or text 45645 in the evenings to access Talk Suicide Canada.
Canadians can also access the Wellness Together Portal, and the PocketWell app to find self-guided therapy, peer-to-peer support, and counselling with mental health and substance use health professionals.
Children and young adults in need of mental health support and crisis services can also contact the Kids Help Phone anytime.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) will lead the launch of the national three-digit number.
CAMH is now working to develop partnerships and collaborations with organizations across the country to start building capacity and engage with stakeholders about the scope and requirements of a timely, quality service, the release said.
PHAC will also be engaging stakeholders from a range of sectors, Provinces and Territories, Indigenous partners, public safety officials, people with lived experience, crisis services, and mental health experts on the scope and service delivery elements to ensure the number is operational by next fall.
“The Government of Canada will continue to do whatever it takes to provide people across Canada with the best possible mental health and crisis intervention supports and resources,” the release said.
The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) supports the decision to have a national hotline number available for Canadians.
“CAMIMH has long advocated for mental health to be considered in parity with physical health and substance use health, and this mental health crisis hotline is a crucial step toward that,” a CAMIMH statement said.
The alliance has worked with the federal government to ensure mental health is in parity with physical health by establishing a Mental Health and Addictions ministry.
“The alliance of mental health associations appreciates that the government has made significant commitments in regard to mental health and looks forward to continuing advocacy to the government on achieving legislation to put mental health in parity with physical health,” the statement said.