Mental health experts say Canada should have a three-digit suicide crisis hotline

·1 min read

Pressure is mounting for Canada to establish a three-digit suicide crisis hotline similar to the one implemented by the United States this weekend.

The new 988 mental health hotline American authorities launched on Saturday will, once fully operational, offer residents struggling with suicidal thoughts an easy-to-remember number that will connect them with trained mental health counsellors rather than police.

Dr. Allison Crawford, the chief medical officer for Talk Suicide Canada and a psychiatrist with Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, says such a hotline is the gold standard for phone-based suicide prevention.

She and other experts argue a system like 988 would both make it easier for Canadians to access urgent help and show those struggling with mental health crises that suicide prevention is taken seriously.

Canada’s House of Commons unanimously voted in favour of establishing a three-digit suicide prevention number in 2020.

A Health Canada spokesperson says the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is evaluating how this number could be introduced and the department expects a decision from the agency later this year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 17, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press

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