New mental health crisis hotline, 988, now available

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission adopted 988 as the new mental health crisis and suicide prevention hotline as of Nov. 30, 2023. Those who call or text 988 will be redirected to one of several mental health crisis services based on the caller’s area code and availability of services. “Right now, unless you are […]
Photo: Melinda La Riccia, Oniqua Kanmaka, Victoria Fancy and Mehdia Htibe sat in the college's Mental Health Resource Centre on the third floor of Student Commons. Photo credit
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The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission adopted 988 as the new mental health crisis and suicide prevention hotline as of Nov. 30, 2023.

Those who call or text 988 will be redirected to one of several mental health crisis services based on the caller’s area code and availability of services.

“Right now, unless you are suicidal and they know that, you won’t be getting help – you’ll be on a waitlist for like three years,” said Melinda La Riccia, an early childhood education student speaking about the mental health crisis service providers who answer the phone. “They just don’t have the resources to deal with the people in distress.”

However, the federal government is trying to rectify this.

The Canadian government will be investing $156 million to the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health over the next three years in support of the 988 change. All calls and texts to 988 are free of charge, with long-distance charges being settled at the cost of the service provider.

Service for 988 will be available 24/7 including culturally appropriate care for certain groups and Indigenous communities across Canada.

“It’s important because mental illness doesn’t work on a set schedule,” said La Riccia, of the 24/7 service.

“I come from an immigrant background and back there it was seen as like, if you seek help, you’re deemed one level shy of Joker-like insanity,” said Mehdia Htibe who is interested in apply to computer engineering technology. “Now, even though Canada lets you be as open as you can, you still have those scars of the handcuffs from back then.”

With the decline of Canadian mental health since 2018, new mental health services are needed more and more every day.

Photo credit: Mathew Dicsi

[StatCan, NLM, StatsCan]

“It’s good to seek support right away, as soon as you can,” said Victoria Fancy, a bachelor of early learning and community development student. “It doesn’t have to be a professional at first. It could be a friend or maybe a family member, but it is always good to have support systems where you can talk to someone.”

“Holding it in will cause an eruption,” said Ahmed Elbadri, a student success specialist for media and design. “Having someone to talk to is a good thing. whether it’s a professional, a friend, or a support line like 988.”

The Canadian 988 number implementation is following America’s 2022 creation of the 988 mental health hotline. The Canadian and American 988 mental health hotlines will function separately, however.

While the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health have been “onboarding a large cohort of organizations to the 988 network,” according to a press release published on the CAMH website, no official list of partnered organizations has been provided.

For more information, please visit the Government of Canada’s official website.

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