The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) is seeking public input on the merit of a three-digit mental health and suicide prevention hotline, much like the 9-1-1 emergency services.
In its brief published on June 3, the commission explained that although Canada already has multiple mental health hotlines, people experiencing a crisis can have a hard time finding or remembering their lengthy phone numbers. A three-digit number is easier to access and can potentially provide help faster.
The questionnaire inquires the public about the caller’s privacy, service deployment schedules, and whether texts should be included as an alternative. However, being the body that oversees communication, the CRTC only governs how the three-digit number is implemented by the companies and not the actual service itself.
According to the Government of Canada, 4,000 deaths are caused by suicide in Canada every year, or around 11 deaths per day. During the peak of the pandemic, stringent social distancing efforts greatly elevated stress. Both the CRTC and the U.S. Center for Disease Control noted a sharp increase in stress and anxiety. Further, the CRTC underscored an elevated number of suicide-related calls, texts and chats.
To participate, Canadians can fill the online form or write a letter to the CRTC before Sept 1, 2021. In the meantime, Canadians experiencing mental health distress can reach Crisis Service Canada at 1-833-456-4566. Residents of Quebec can call 1-866-APPELLE.