A national suicide prevention hotline meant to help Canadians struggling with mental health challenges is receiving nearly 1,500 calls and texts per day since its launch late last year, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
The 988 helpline, led by CAMH and funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), was rolled out across the country on Nov. 30, 2023.
“Since the launch, 9-8-8 is receiving approximately 1,000 calls and approximately 450 texts per day,” CAMH told Global News in an emailed statement.
The centre said it did not have data available on how many of those calls and texts required emergency services to intervene.
CAMH had previously emphasized that emergency services would not be involved in the majority of calls and texts.
“Responders are trained to try all possible ways of supporting the person reaching out before referring them to emergency services,” CAMH said.
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“If a responder does end up referring someone to emergency services, they will continue to offer them support throughout this process.”
The hotline provides a round-the-clock toll-free texting and calling service to Canadians.
It is for anyone who is thinking about suicide, or who is worrying about someone they know, according to CAMH.
Since the launch, “only minor technical issues” have been raised, which were resolved quickly, the centre said.
In Canada, approximately 12 people die by suicide every day, which amounts to 4,500 deaths per year, according to PHAC.
There is growing research and concern about the mental health toll of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, particularly among the younger population.
A Statistics Canada report from May last year showed that the prevalence of suicidal thoughts in 2021 was highest among young adults aged 18 to 24 years compared with any other age group.
In an interview with Global News in November 2023, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Ya’ara Saks said the 988 helpline was “an important service.”
“We know that since COVID, that mental health of so many of our young people and Canadians has been such a challenge and to be able to have a low-barrier access, three-digit number that is nationwide, that can meet people exactly where they are when they need it, is critical,” Saks said.
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