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988: National suicide prevention hotline coming November 2023

Cariboo Prince George MP Todd Doherty tearfully shared the news on Facebook
Cariboo—Prince George MP Todd Doherty emotionally shared the news on his Facebook page Wednesday, Aug. 31, from the parking lot of Canadian Tire in Prince George. (Facebook)

Sitting in the parking lot of Canadian Tire in Prince George, Todd Doherty held himself from crying as he announced he just received word the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications (CRTC) will be activating a nationwide three-digit suicide prevention hotline.

The Cariboo-Prince George MP shared the news on his Facebook page Wednesday morning, Aug. 31.

“I just got word that the CRTC is going to adopt our push to implement 9-8-8, giving Canada a simple three-digit suicide hotline, and I’m moved to tears,” Doherty said from inside his vehicle.

“I’m thankful for everybody that brought their voice forward to get this done. It’s so needed, and just a heartfelt thanks.”

Doherty ended the video by promising more news to come.

His motion to take “immediate action” to establish the suicide prevention hotline was unanimously approved in the House of Commons in December 2020 but faced delays even as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the mental health of many.

Doherty had hoped the hotline would have been up and running by the end of 2021 although consultations by the CRTC did not conclude until earlier this year.

The Canadian Suicide Prevention Service already operates an 11-digit suicide helpline, but Dr. Allison Crawford, the service’s chief medical officer, said a three-digit dialing code would be far easier to remember.

In a news release, the CRTC said the 9-8-8 number for Canadians in need of immediate mental health crisis and suicide prevention intervention to call or text will be launched across the country on November 30, 2023.

“We are taking a significant step in making mental health and suicide prevention resources more accessible to everyone in Canada. A single, easy-to-remember point of contact will provide much-needed help to those in crisis and will be crucial to saving lives,” said Ian Scott, chairperson and CEO of the CRTC.

“Although much work is left to be done to bring help to people who need it, we have set accelerated timelines to ensure that 9-8-8 is implemented as quickly and as efficiently as possible.”

Statistics Canada says 11 people die by suicide each day and that there are around 4,000 deaths by suicide per year.

Read More: Doherty calls for national suicide prevention hotline

(with files from the Canadian Press)

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