WARNING: This story mentions suicide.
Thursday marked the launch of the new nationwide 988 crisis line.
It replaces the previous 10-digit Talk Suicide number. It’s free to call and available 24/7. The federally funded number can be called or texted and is available in English and French.
Diane Brown-Demarco, Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association of Parry Sound-Muskoka (CMHA), says for someone thinking about suicide or dealing with emotional distress, getting help quickly is vital. “It’s much easier than trying to look up or remember a phone number you might only use once,” she says.
When someone calls the number, Brown-Demarco explains they will be directed to a local resource, like CMHA, and will speak to a person trained to help people going through a mental health issue. If needed, the caller will be directed to another resource that can help them further.
At launch, 40 local, provincial, territorial, and national crisis lines are helping to deliver the service. The nearest to us is the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge branch of CMHA.
“There needs to be something easy that allows you to get help right away,” says Brown-Demarco.
While she knows this won’t lessen the high amount of calls CMHA gets daily from people needing help, Brown-Demarco says this will make getting help easier.
“Hopefully it will save lives,” she says.
According to Statistics Canada, 4,500 people a year, or twelve people a day, die by suicide in Canada.
The idea for the new crisis line started in Dec. 2020 when the idea was approved in the House of Commons. However, it wasn’t until Aug. 2022 that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved using 988 as the national number.
The number will be managed by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
It mirrors a similar service available in the United States.