Ottawa – Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced that it will adopt 9-8-8 as the number to call or text for Canadians who are in need of immediate mental health crisis and suicide prevention intervention. Once implemented by telephone and wireless service providers,
calls and texts to 9-8-8 will be directed to a mental health crisis or suicide prevention service, free of charge.
The implementation of 9-8-8 as an easy-to-remember three-digit number will help reduce barriers to mental health and suicide prevention resources. The number will enable greater access regardless of geographic location or socioeconomic status as it will be available from coast to coast, 24/7 and free of charge. Furthermore, the ability to text to 9-8-8 will ensure that people in crisis who are unable to safely call, or prefer texting, are able to obtain counselling.
Transition to 10-digit local dialing
In order for 9-8-8 to function across Canada, 10-digit dialing must first be introduced in areas where 7‑digit dialing is still the norm. This includes Newfoundland and Labrador, northern Ontario and the Yellowknife area. The CRTC is requiring service providers to complete the transition to 10-digit local dialing in these areas by May 31st, 2023.
Once the transition is complete, service providers will have six months to make the necessary changes to their networks to enable callers to dial or text 9-8-8.
This will ensure that 9-8-8 is launched across Canada at the same time, on November 30th, 2023.
Help is still available in the meantime
Currently, people in Canada who are experiencing mental health distress can obtain assistance through Talk Suicide Canada by dialing toll-free 1-833-456-4566. Residents of Quebec are encouraged to call 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553).
Assistance is also available through text. Adults can text 741741 and youth can text 686868. Quebec residents can text 1-855-957-5353. Talk Suicide Canada’s text service is available in the evenings from 4:00 p.m. to midnight EST by texting 45645.
“We are taking a significant step in making mental health and suicide prevention resources more accessible to everyone in Canada. 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.” – Ian Scott, Chairperson and CEO of the CRTC