The new initiative aims to create a three-digit help line along with other suicide prevention resources
The Public Health Agency of Canada just gave the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) $21 million to fund new suicide prevention initiatives, according to a press release on Thursday.
The new initiative, which will be rolled out over a five-year period, will see the creation of a three-digit phone number that people nationwide can use to receive bilingual crisis support through voice, text and online chat methods. The service aims to be accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year-round.
This initiative is a partnership between CAMH, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and Crisis Services Canada (CSC).
Last month, CAMH, CMHA and CSC wrote to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which oversees the creation of new codes, to ask for the creation of a three-digit suicide prevention number.
“In a crisis, looking for a 10-digit number is a barrier to care — a barrier that doesn’t need to exist,” said Dr. Allison Crawford, the Chief Medical Officer of the Canada Suicide Prevention Service. “Calling an easily accessible suicide prevention line is an evidence-based way to keep people safe in the moment and come up with a plan to access mental health resources or other supports.”
Since December 2019, calls to the Canada Suicide Prevention Service more than doubled in December 2020, according to the CSC. The statistics also indicated that 20 per cent of calls were COVID-19 related.
The project also plans to create virtual training programs to help responders effectively assist Canadians in crisis.
Additionally, they plan to expand the Canada Suicide Prevention Service network to include more Canadian distress centres and establish the first Canadian standard for suicide prevention.
“CMHA is pleased to partner with CAMH and CSC to expand crisis services in Canada,” said Margaret Eaton, the National CEO of CMHA. “We know that despair and suicidal feelings are deepening as the pandemic wears on and people need somewhere to turn. Working together, we are ensuring that everyone across the country has access to help when they need it most.”
About 4,000 Canadians die of suicide every year according to CAMH.
Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts can call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service anytime at 1-833-456-4566.