Do we need a national mental health crisis, suicide prevention services hotline?

Canadians invited to share inputs

Do we need a national mental health crisis, suicide prevention services hotline?
Canadians’ mental health has taken a hit during the pandemic.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is inviting all interested persons to comment on whether there is a need for a three-digit number for a national mental health crisis and suicide prevention service.

The CRTC is examining the advantages, challenges and costs associated with the deployment of the three-digit number.

“With physical distancing measures in place, the pandemic’s impact on mental health is even more apparent throughout the country,” said Ian Scott, chairperson and CEO, CRTC. “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.”

COVID-19 has increased demands and pressures on unpaid caregivers, and this has caused unprecedented burnout (70 per cent) across 12 countries, according to a report released in April.

Also, around one in five Canadians aged 25-34 (21 per cent) and 18-24 (19 per cent) are thinking about suicide, according to a report released in December 2020.

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?

Interested parties can share their opinion until Sept. 1. They can do this by filling out this form; by writing to the Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario K1A ON2; or by sending a fax to (819) 994-0218.

Help is within reach

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.

However, there are numerous resources available to the public to prevent suicide.

Recently, WorkSafe Saskatchewan launched a comprehensive online psychological health and safety resource centre to help employers and workers develop psychologically healthy and safe workplaces. There are also mobile applications that can help with people’s wellness and mental health concerns.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada also shared tips on how employers and managers can prevent suicide in the workplace:

  • Understand the role you play in preventing suicide.
  • Proclaim suicide prevention a priority.
  • Identify and recognize social dynamics and workplace factors that can affect mental health.
  • Support team members at risk by asking: “What can I do to support you?”
  • Respond swiftly after a suicide loss.
  • Support team members after the suicide loss of an employee or a loved one.

Recently, Alberta announced it is implementing a new digital tool to improve police interactions when responding to mental health emergencies.