Collaboration brings together existing suicide prevention services and advocates for a national, three-digit phone number
February 4, 2021 (Toronto) – Now more than ever, people in need of immediate mental health support are turning to distress centres for help. People living in Canada need an easy way to ask for assistance during their time of greatest need.
That is why the Public Health Agency of Canada is providing $21 million over five years to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to implement and sustain a fully operational pan-Canadian suicide prevention service in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and Crisis Services Canada (CSC). This service will provide people across Canada with expanded access to 24/7/365 bilingual crisis support from trained responders, via voice, text and online chat.
In January, CAMH, CMHA, and CSC jointly wrote to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to strongly advocate for the implementation of a three-digit suicide prevention number connected to the expanding Canada Suicide Prevention Service network. They argue that it will provide superior access to timely support with an easy to dial number in a crisis situation, allowing greater access to trained responders and ultimately support a centralized entry point to other mental health programs, as part of a more comprehensive, integrated approach to mental health care.
“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, Chief Medical Officer, 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. We are committed to working with the CRTC to improve supports for Canadians in need.”
The work to expand a pan-Canadian suicide prevention service will build upon existing community-based local suicide prevention services and a 2017 pilot of a national service. Key initiatives over the next five years include:
- Developing virtual training and education to support responders, promoting the delivery of high quality, evidence-based, equitable suicide prevention services to people living in Canada.
- Engaging additional Canadian distress centres in the existing Canada Suicide Prevention Service to expand the network.
- Developing the first Canadian standards for suicide prevention services.
- Establishing an advisory committee with diverse stakeholders, including people with lived experience in suicide prevention efforts.
“CAMH is proud to partner with CMHA and Crisis Services Canada on this important national service,” said Dr. Catherine Zahn, President and CEO at CAMH, the lead organization for this initiative. “We know that communities across Canada are engaged in suicide prevention efforts that recognize their unique strengths and needs. Our organizations will build on these community-based efforts to ensure that all people living in Canada are able to access crisis support services when they need them.”
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth and young adults in Canada. This is a serious public health issue in Canada, and we need a coordinated, national response to address it. No one should have to suffer alone. Through this partnership, we will be there to help Canadians get the support they need in times of crisis,” said The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Canada’s Minister of Health.
“CSC is excited to be part of the expansion of the Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS) in partnership with CAMH and CMHA to extend, deepen and broaden the impact of CSPS,” said Stephanie MacKendrick, CEO of CSC. “Combining CSC’s experience in founding and operating CSPS with the world-class mental health treatment expertise of CAMH and the extensive community mental health engagement of CMHA will significantly accelerate the ability of CSPS to support anyone who has suicide-related concerns anywhere in Canada at any time.”
“CMHA is pleased to partner with CAMH and CSC to expand crisis services in Canada. 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,” said Margaret Eaton, National CEO of CMHA.
- Suicide ends the lives of 4,000 Canadians every year—nearly 11 people per day.
- If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, you are deserving of help and can call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service 24/7/365 at 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645 between 4pm and midnight EST. If you require immediate, in-person emergency care, call 911, or go to your nearest emergency department.
- According to statistics from CSC, calls to the Canada Suicide Prevention Service more than doubled in December 2020 compared to the same month in 2019. In December 2020, 20% of all callers expressed concern about COVID-19.
- A new editorial in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry argues that suicide crisis services are an evidence-based, cost-effective component of suicide prevention.
- The CRTC is responsible for numbering administration in Canada, which includes establishing any three digit abbreviated codes.
CAMH is Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world’s leading research centres in its field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. For more information, please visit www.camh.ca.
Crisis Services Canada (CSC) is a pre-eminent voice and leader in promoting a comprehensive and integrated community-based helpline sector in Canada. In 2017, CSC launched the Canada Suicide Prevention Service and now delivers that service in partnership with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Canadian Mental Health Association. For more information, please visit www.crisisservicescanada.ca.
Founded in 1918, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is the most established, most extensive community mental health organization in Canada. Through a presence in more than 330 communities across every province and one territory, CMHA provides advocacy, programs and resources that help to prevent mental health problems and illnesses, support recovery and resilience, and enable all Canadians to flourish and thrive. For more information, please visit www.cmha.ca.
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