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9-8-8 going online

9-8-8 going online

Canadians can dial this three-digit number if they need mental health support

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

A national three-digit mental health support number goes online on Nov. 30.

Beginning that day, Canadians seeking mental health support can dial 9-8-8 to be put in contact with a trained responder, in English and French, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.

Prior to 9-8-8’s launch, someone would’ve had to dial 1-833-456-4566, or 1-866-277-3553 in Quebec, to access the Canadian Mental Health Association’s national hotline.

When someone is experiencing a mental health crisis and time may be of the essence, having an easy number to remember is very important, said Megz Reynolds, executive director of the Do More Ag Foundation.

“If you or someone you know is going through something and are in a different mindset, the last thing you need to do is think about where you need to go to connect to help,” she told Farms.com. “We all know, 9-1-1, and this number isn’t that different, so having this available to people is going to make a huge difference.”

Research indicates more people reached out for mental health support once it transitioned away from a 10-digit hotline to 9-8-8 in July 2022.

Since 9-8-8 came online south of the border, the number of calls, texts and chats have increased by more than 30 per cent, data from the U.S. shows.

Putting this three-digit number into effect reduces barriers for Canadians, Reynolds said.

“These days we’re connected with people around the country who we might be worried about,” she said. “And you worry about who they’re going to call while they’re in Alberta and maybe you’re in Saskatchewan. 9-8-8 alleviates some of that stress because it works anywhere in Canada.”

Reynolds also participated in meetings with those involved with setting up 9-8-8 and looking for information on unique industries like ag, fishing or the military.

Industry groups are pleased to see 9-8-8 coming online.

Talking about mental health and reaching out for support will help reduce stigma, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture says.

“Stigma around mental health remains a concern for those facing mental health challenges and having simple means of accessing crisis support is critical in reducing barriers to access. We hope farmers will take advantage of this, as they do other healthcare services, to ensure anyone in need is getting support,” the organization told Farms.com in an emailed statement, adding that counsellors and other support staff need to be trained in ag to understand the nuances of industry issues.

Do More Ag provides one such program.

The AgCulture course helps educate mental health professionals who may not have extensive or direct experience on the farm.

Another resource is In the Know.

This program, developed by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Canadian Mental Health Association and University of Guelph, is specifically tailored for farmers and the ag community.

If you or someone you know requires mental health support, Farms.com has also compiled a list of available resources.


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