Suicide is a significant public health issue that affects people of all ages and backgrounds across Canada. Every day, an average of 12 people die by suicide in Canada. 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.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has been working to improve access to immediate suicide prevention and mental health crisis support. This includes examining the service delivery needs for a national three-digit suicide prevention number, as well as understanding anticipated demand.
This number would be faster to dial, and would remove the challenge of looking up or remembering a 10 or seven-digit number. 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.
PHAC has announced that the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has been selected as the organization to lead coordination of service delivery for the national three-digit number. As a first step, CAMH will develop partnerships and collaborations with key organizations across Canada to start building capacity, and engage with stakeholders to inform the scope and requirements of a timely, quality service.
It has been decided that 988 will be the three-digit number used to access these services through both phone and text. 988 is easily recognized, and is consistent with the suicide prevention number recently introduced by the United States (U.S.), which also helps increase its recognition overall. PHAC is also working closely with our U.S. counterparts to learn from their experiences implementing their 988 service.
While work is underway to introduce 988 in Canada by November 2023, 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. For residents of Quebec, call 1-866-277-3553 or visit suicide.ca for support by text and online chat.
Canadians can access the Wellness Together Portal, as well as its companion app PocketWell, for free 24/7 educational content, self-guided therapy, moderated peer-to-peer support, and one-to-one counselling with qualified health professionals to support with mental health and substance use.
Hope for Wellness provides immediate emotional support, crisis intervention, or referrals to community-based services to access experienced and culturally sensitive help line counsellors for Indigenous Peoples at 1-855-242-3310.
Children and young adults in Canada in need of mental health supports and crisis services can contact Kids Help Phone. Text CONNECT to 686868 from anywhere in Canada, any time, about anything.
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay