CRTC Asks “Is there a need for a National Mental Health, Suicide Prevention Hotline?”

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Ottawa-Gatineau – The House of Commons and Senate passed legislation toward the creation of a three-digit number, 988 as a National Mental Health and suicide prevention number.

Now, the CRTC is inviting all interested persons to comment on whether there is a need for a three-digit number, such as the 9-8-8 three digit code in the United States, for a national mental health crisis and suicide prevention service. The CRTC is examining the advantages, challenges and costs associated with the deployment of this three-digit number.

Among other considerations, and consistent with its role, the CRTC is seeking information on the following questions:

  • Should the CRTC establish a national three-digit number for mental health crisis and suicide prevention services?
  • How much time would it take to implement a national three-digit number?
  • Should a three-digit number be deployed across Canada at the same time or phased in?
  • Should the caller’s location information be captured automatically when dialing the three-digit number?
  • Should Canadians be able to send text messages directly to the three-digit number?

The CRTC is welcoming comments until September 1, 2021. Canadians can participate by:

  • filling out the online form;
  • writing to the Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario K1A ON2; or
  • sending a fax to (819) 994-0218.

“With physical distancing measures in place, the pandemic’s impact on mental health is even more apparent throughout the country. Suicide-related calls, texts and chats have increased across Canada. We are asking Canadians and other interested parties for information to better understand the advantages and challenges associated with implementing a three-digit number for mental health crisis and suicide prevention services, and how any challenges can be overcome,” says Ian Scott, Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer, CRTC.

Quick facts

  • There are approximately 4,000 deaths by suicide in Canada every year, which represent approximately 10 deaths every day. Some populations are at a significantly higher risk, including men, youth, those aged 45 to 59, and certain Indigenous communities.
  • The CRTC’s role in establishing three-digit numbers is limited to administering phone numbers and requiring telecommunications service providers to implement this three-digit number across Canada.
  • The CRTC does not have authority over the organizations that provide emergency services via a three-digit number. This is why this consultation will not examine matters related to the governance and coordination of organizations providing mental health crisis and suicide prevention services, as well as the funding of those organizations.
  • In the meantime, Canadians experiencing mental health distress can obtain assistance by dialing toll-free 1-833-456-4566. Residents of Quebec are encouraged to call 1-866-APPELLE.
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