August 31, 2022
A volunteer takes a call at the Crisis Centre B.C. office in Vancouver on Oct. 21, 2020. Demand for mental health services in Canada has grown since the start of the pandemic. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
A long-anticipated three-digit suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline will come online in 2023, Canada's telecommunications regulator said Wednesday.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) said it will use 988 as the hotline's number — the same three digits adopted for a similar hotline in the United States that launched in July.
MPs voted unanimously in favour of establishing a three-digit hotline in December 2020, as demand was rising for mental health services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Conservative B.C. MP Todd Doherty, who tabled the motion on the hotline, said he heard the news while out running errands and had to sit in his truck and cry for half an hour.
"It took way too long to do this but today is a great day," he said.
Doherty, whose best friend died by suicide at the age of 14, said there is still work to be done to implement the hotline but he's glad things are heading in the right direction.
"When minutes and seconds count, this will save lives," he said.
Once the hotline is active, Canadians will be able to call or text it and be directed to mental health services free of charge.
WATCH | Advocate applauds new hotline
'I would have called it,' says suicide awareness advocate. Duration 6:22
Tanya Joy, whose brother died by suicide and who attempted to take her own life, says the new 988 hotline will make it easier for people who are suffering to get support and help.
Following the CRTC announcement, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced it's tapping the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health to lead and coordinate service delivery for the hotline.
Statistics Canada reported in 2021 that, on average, more than 10 Canadians were dying by suicide every day.
The CRTC said it anticipates the hotline will be launched on Nov. 30, 2023.
Where to get help now:
- Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (Phone) | 45645 (Text, 4 p.m. to midnight ET only) crisisservicescanada.ca
- In Quebec (French): Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)
- Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (Phone), Live Chat counselling at www.kidshelpphone.ca
- Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre