Canada launching 988 suicide crisis line in fall 2023

By The Canadian Press

The CRTC says it will launch a new emergency crisis number for people in need of immediate mental health or suicide prevention support.

It says starting at the end of November 2023, Canadians will be able to call 988 to be connected to a mental health crisis or suicide prevention service, free of charge.

The Public Health Agency of Canada will decide which group will provide the service, along with the scope of care it will offer.

The move will bring Canada in line with the United States, which launched its 988 services last month.

But the CRTC says it must first transition to 10-digit local dialling across the country.

As it stands, seven-digit local dialling is still the norm in Newfoundland and Labrador, northern Ontario and the Yellowknife area.

Canada’s House of Commons unanimously voted in favour of establishing a three-digit suicide prevention number in 2020.

News of launch “a step in the right direction”

The CRTC has given a deadline of May 31, 2023, for service providers to implement 10-digit dialling across the country.

In the meantime, the CRTC notes that people in mental health distress can call Talk Suicide Canada at 1-833-456-4566.

Todd Doherty, a Conservative member of Parliament from British Columbia who has long advocated for the creation of a three-digit suicide hotline, applauded Wednesday’s decision.


“While the continued delays have been frustrating and unnecessary, today’s announcement is great news and a step in the right direction,” he said in a statement.

He says the hotline will save lives.

“To the countless Canadians who shared your voices and your stories to support this initiative — thank you.”

Dr. Allison Crawford, the chief medical officer for Talk Suicide Canada and a psychiatrist with Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, says such a hotline is the gold standard for phone-based suicide prevention.

She and other experts argue a system like 988 would both make it easier for Canadians to access urgent help and show those struggling with mental health crises that suicide prevention is taken seriously.

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