The government is putting $156 million over three years toward a new three-digit suicide-prevention hotline, Mental Health Minister Carolyn Bennett announced Monday.
Starting on Nov. 30, people in crisis will be able to dial 988 anywhere in Canada to be connected with trained responders 24 hours a day by phone or text message.
The free service will be offered in English and French.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health will receive the money to launch and operate the hotline.
The minister is also giving the organization $21 million to bolster the capacity of distress centres as they prepare for the increased demand for services.
The hotline won’t be able to help people in crisis unless they can connect with local mental health services, the Canadian Mental Health Association said in a statement Monday.
Current wait-lists are overwhelming, the association said, and the centre expects a four- to sixfold increase in demand when the new hotline launches.
Without community-based services wherever the caller is located, the new hotline will only lead to new wait-lists, the association said.
Conservative MP Todd Doherty put forward a motion to establish a national suicide prevention hotline in December 2020, and the House of Commons passed it unanimously.