The hotline will be available free of charge as of next fall
By Diego Flammini
A three-digit mental health and suicide prevention hotline will be available to Canadians next year.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced that in November 2023, Canadians experiencing a mental health crisis can dial or text 9-8-8 for support.
The U.S. launched 9-8-8 as its national mental health hotline in July.
Canada’s fall 2023 target gives communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, northern Ontario and Yellowknife enough time to transition to 10-digit local dialing. These areas still use seven-digit dialing.
“We are taking a significant step in making mental health and suicide prevention resources more accessible to everyone in Canada,” Ian Scott, chairperson and CEO of the CRTC, said in a statement. “A single, easy to remember point of contact will provide much-needed help to those in crisis and will be crucial to saving lives. 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.”
The mental health of Canadian farmers has been in the spotlight in recent years.
Studies from the University of Guelph indicate farmers want more mental health resources.
But the stigma associated with mental health, paired with a lack of accessibility and anonymity, prevented farmers from seeking out the help they may require.
And research from June 2022 shows the mental health of Canadian farmers worsened during the pandemic.
A May 2021 survey of about 1,200 Canadian farmers showed more than half of respondents, 76 per cent, or about 912 farmers, said they were experiencing moderate or high levels of stress.
“Many respondents also reported they had been thinking about suicide. Suicide ideation was twice as high in farmers compared to the general population,” a research summary says. “Additionally, one of four farmers surveyed reported their life was not worth living, wished they were dead or had thought of taking their own life during the past 12 months.”
In addition, the research, led by Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton in the university’s department of population medicine, showed stress and other mental health issues were higher among women in every aspect except alcohol use.
A Conservative MP spearheaded the movement to bring a three-digit suicide prevention hotline to Canada.
Todd Doherty, the MP for Cariboo-Prince George, introduced a bill in December 2020 to establish 9-8-8 in Canada. Parliament unanimously approved the bill that month.
Doherty has a personal connection to suicide, losing his friend Kenny at 14-years-old.
Upon the CRTC’s announcement to bring 9-8-8 to Canada, Doherty posted a message on social media.
“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,” he said from inside his car. “I’m thankful for everybody that brought their voice forward to get this done. It’s so needed, and just a heartfelt thanks.”
Farms.com has contacted the Do More Agriculture Foundation for comment on 9-8-8 and if the organization plans to be involved with any sort of support dedicated around farmers.
If you or someone you know needs mental health support, multiple resources are available:
- Talk Suicide Canada – 1-833-456-4566 (1-866-277-3553 in Quebec)
- Adults can text 641741 and youth can text 686868
- Residents of Quebec can text 1-855-957-5353
Farms.com has also compiled a list of mental health supports available in each province.