Canada’s Mental Health System Needs Radical Surgery. 9-8-8 is a vital part of the solution.
Recent heartbreaking tragedies involving police responses to mental health-related situations, many of which followed calls to 911 for help, demonstrate the serious, even fatal, cracks that exist in our current mental health system. They come after experts predicted a wave of mental health issues, including suicide attempts, as a result of the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. We need a better option than 9-1-1 that will allow those experiencing an emotional crisis, and their families, to reach out for support and counselling. The three-digit, easy to remember and quick to dial hotline, designated by the number 9-8-8, is that option. It’s needed now more than ever.
When I was first interviewed on CTV National News with Lisa LaFlamme about the idea I have been trying to bring to Canada for more than a year, I said 9-8-8 could save lives. Recent events have me even more convinced than ever about the transformative role these three numbers can play in reducing harm and saving lives.
Since our campaign began, I’ve heard from hundreds across Canada and throughout the United States who have expressed enthusiastic support for 9-8-8. Some of you have experienced the loss of a loved one to mental illness. Others have survived suicide attempts. Your heartfelt stories and encouragement about the promise of 9-8-8 to make a difference mean so much. You’ve also shared your experiences about a broken mental health system that leaves too many alone when they need help the most. Bringing change to the way Canada delivers mental health care is a big part of our 9-8-8 campaign, too. Making sure our public leaders and healthcare decision-makers hear your voices and your support for 9-8-8 will help to make it happen.
Kathleen Finlay, Founder
The 988 Campaign for Canada
Our mental health system needs radical surgery. Kathleen Finlay sets out three ideas to begin the rebuilding.
Kathleen Finlay reiterates her call on Prime Minister Trudeau to include mental health support in federal response to COVID-19 crisis.
While the federal government has responded to the pandemic with plans to deal with both its physical threats and its economic fallout, it still has no plan to address the mental-health impact of COVID-19. This leaves too many victims feeling forgotten by their national government.
Latest in The Hill Times.
Ottawa Citizen, April 1, 2020
What Canadians, and the families of loved ones lost to suicide, are saying about 988.
I'm a retired cop. I remember what it used to be like for people in an emergency before 911. Why would they not want the same idea to prevent suicide, which is taking too many law enforcement lives.
Don't these politicians in Ottawa understand that when they ignore someone like you trying to save people they are really showing disrespect to the families left behind to suicide?
I want to support your efforts in the memory of my daughter. If your 988 just saves one life it will be worth it.
What I don’t understand is why Canada’s politicians are cool to this innovation. What are they there for?
I saw your interview on CTV. You have such compassion. Families appreciate this so much. I support your 988 campaign.
Your idea is so great. Just like 911 but for stopping suicide. Please keeping fighting for it.
We lost our Tommy to suicide. I wonder if this idea might have saved him. I was interested that you said experts say it will save lives.
This is the official site of the 9-8-8 Campaign for Canada. It’s an innovation in combating suicide that CTV National News called “three numbers that could make all the difference.” Intended to replace the current nation-wide 11-digit suicide prevention hotline number, 9-8-8 will provider a faster and more direct way for those in crisis to reach out for the help they want, when seconds count in saving lives.
Every day, 11 Canadians die from suicide. Every year, 100,000 attempt to take their lives — men, women and children. They come from every part of Canada and every socio-economic group. Some populations, such as indigenous and LGBTQ communities, are at especially high risk, as are victims of sexual trauma. When Canadians need to reach out for help with a mental health crisis, we deserve to get it as quickly as possible, just as we do when we call 9-1-1 for the help of police, fire or ambulance. That’s what 9-8-8 can do.
The easy-to-remember, faster-to-dial 9-8-8 hotline system is already underway in the U.S, in response to the crisis of suicide there. It has the bipartisan support of the U.S. Congress, as well as the best clinical thinkers in mental health. We need it in Canada. The question is not, “Why do we need it in Canada?” it’s, “What can we do to get it up and running as quickly as possible?” It’s time our politicians got on board and made it happen.