Mr. Ian Scott
Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
1 Promenade du Portage
Gatineau, Quebec J8X 4B1
February 25, 2021
Dear Mr. Scott,
I am writing on behalf of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) to highlight the urgent need for an easy-to-access three-digit suicide prevention number — an important part of any suicide prevention strategy, as advocated by our longtime partner the World Health Organization.
A three-digit number would instantly remove a barrier for someone making a distress call. Member of Parliament for Cariboo-Prince George, Mr. Todd Doherty, put forward a successful motion for a “three-digit (988) National Suicide Prevention Hotline that is accessible to all Canadians.” The fact that it received unanimous support highlights the universality of the issue. The same is true of a petition signed by 34,000 Canadians, spearheaded by teen advocate Madi Muggridge.
Over the past few months, the MHCC has been working in collaboration with Crisis Services Canada, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and the Canadian Mental Health Association (National) to develop a white paper called Considerations for Implementing a Three-Digit Suicide Prevention Number in Canada. Set for a March release, the paper outlines the factors to consider for Canada to implement its own three-digit suicide prevention number.
The evidence is clear that a three-digit suicide prevention number allows easier routing to local suicide prevention services and provides clarity for individuals in their time of need. If promoted properly, it can quickly reduce confusion and save lives.
By working together, we can make important inroads to address suicide, a serious public health concern and a leading cause of death in Canada. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified the need for an easy-to-access three-digit prevention line. A recent national study found that one in 20 Canadians has recently experienced suicidal feelings, and it further emphasized the disproportionate impact on certain subgroups.
We understand that the CRTC is considering holding public proceedings about whether to mandate Canadian telecommunication providers to implement a three-digit number. We strongly encourage the CRTC to move forward with a broad discussion to ensure that people with lived experience, mental health advocates, and stakeholders in the suicide prevention and distress-line sector can be heard. In addition to submitting the white paper and other evidence, we would welcome the opportunity to contribute to CRTC hearings, should public proceedings be initiated.
A properly implemented three-digit suicide prevention number will save lives. The CRTC’s decision to move forward with the necessary proceedings is a critical next step. We stand ready to support this effort by whatever means necessary.
Louise Bradley, C.M.
President and CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada
cc: The Hon. Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage
The Hon. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health
Ms. Stephanie MacKendrick, Chief Executive Officer, Crisis Services Canada,
Ms. Margaret Eaton, National CEO, Canadian Mental Health Association National,
Ms. Alison Crawford, Clinician Scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health