988: Canada’s new suicide crisis helpline launches

Those struggling or thinking about suicide will now be able to get help by dialling three digits.

988 is Canada’s new suicide crisis helpline and is now available to call or text 24 hours a day and seven days a week, free of charge.

“As a psychiatrist, I’ve witnessed the transformative power of connection. Even just one conversation can help someone reconnect with their strengths and forge new ways of coping,” said Dr. Allson Crawford, the Chief Medical Officer of the 988: Suicide Crisis Helpline and psychiatrist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

“If you are feeling hopeless, our message is: you are not alone. 988: Suicide Crisis Helpline can offer you a non-judgmental space to talk. Whatever you are going through, please know you can always reach out to us,” Crawford added.

The helpline was launched earlier this week, with the Government of Canada providing $156 million over three years to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to implement and operate the helpline.

“Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. There is hope and resources available for people in need. People across Canada have access to an important life-saving service no matter the time of day or where they live,” said Ya’ara Saks, the Minister of Mental Health and Addiction and Associate Minister of Health.

Saks acknowledges that the launch of 988 is a crucial step, but it is just the beginning.

“We will continue to work closely with CAMH, provinces and territories and other important partners to ensure 988 continues to meet the ever-changing needs of Canada’s diverse populations. There is no health without mental health, and I look forward to the contribution this service will make.”

An average of 4,500 people across Canada die by suicide each year – approximately 12 people per day.

An experienced network of partners has trained responders ready to answer 988 calls and texts. When someone reaches out to 988, they will be connected to the responder closest to them, based on their area code, whenever possible. All 998 responders are trained in suicide prevention and can provide trauma-informed and culturally appropriate support.

In Saskatchewan, the local partners in this initiative include Mobile Crisis Services Regina, Prince Albert Mobile Crisis Unit and Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service.

“While we have made progress toward talking openly about our mental health and suicide prevention, we know more can be done to make it easier for anyone who is struggling to get help,” Mental Health and Addictions Minister Tim McLeod said. “A three-digit number provides an easy access point for anyone in need of immediate mental health crisis support.”

If you or someone you may know is thinking about suicide, call or text 988.

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