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Three Digit National Suicide Prevention Line Is Starting To Come Together

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At their March 15 Council Meeting, Minburn County Councillors approved a request to endorse the creation of a National three digit Suicide Prevention phone number. Earlier this year, Lakeland MP Shannon Stubbs sent a letter to all the municipalities in her constituency asking them to support this important initiative. Several Municipalities throughout Western Canada have signed on to endorse the motion originally put forward in December of last year by Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty.

What is being sought after is a three digit number that a person can call for help when they are struggling with suicidal thoughts or actions. This number would be a nationwide service that provides local support to a caller, something particularly crucial in rural and northern regions of Canada. The 988 Initiative could help prevent some of the roughly 4000 suicides that occur annually in Canada, a number which could easily rise due to the stress and strains the pandemic has caused. According to Crisis Services Canada, between seven to ten people are permanently affected by a suicide, this national initiative could be a major step in helping those numbers drop.

This is not an overnight process however. Canada is looking at a minimum of two years to get the project functioning and everybody on board, including the provinces, territories and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The CRTC will be responsible for setting up and maintaining the three digit number. It took the United States four years and $367 million to get their number established which should be operating by July of 2022. No cost projection has been released for Canada’s Initiative as of yet.

The goal of the national number would be to ensure that all Canadians who need support are able to access it and receive the same service, regardless of where they reside. Dr. Allison Crawford, chief medical officer of Canada Suicide Prevention Service says in an article that being able to dial just three digits could be the small step someone needs to get the help they need. This project also has the potential to help create national standards for best practices when dealing with crisis services, something that can benefit everyone. Strategies and practices that are common across the country means that potentially no matter where someone is struggling, they are going to receive the same care they would in their own home base. For more information on suicide prevention, visit the Crisis Services Canada or the Canadian Mental Health Association websites.

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