Local mental health partners part of 988 Canada-wide suicide crisis helpline

GUELPH – You call 411 for directory assistance, 911 for emergencies, and now you can call 988 for urgent mental health support.

The Centre for Addition and Mental Health (CAMH) is partnering with Compass Community Services and the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington (CMHA WW) to launch the 988 Suicide Crisis Helpline, a new Canada-wide helpline that will provide real-time mental health support.

Accessible by text and phone, 988 will provide bilingual support from trained responders who can properly assess individuals in need of crisis support and direct them to resources and services across the community. 

The partner agencies were to launch the new phone line on Nov. 29, with the service available on Nov. 30.

Across the country, suicidal ideation impacts individuals of all ages and backgrounds. An average of 4,500 people across Canada die by suicide each year – approximately 12 people per day. 

Across Guelph and Wellington County, officials say there is a demonstrated need for increased mental health support, particularly for individuals in rural areas unable to access walk-in crisis centres when they are experiencing mental health issues. 

“For someone at their lowest, having access to a compassionate and confidential voice can be a lifeline.  Thanks to those who are providing this frontline service, funded by the Government of Canada,” stated Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield in a press release.

“CMHA WW is pleased to be a partner on Canada’s official three-digit national helpline for suicide prevention and emotional distress,” said CMHA WW’s director of services Jeff Stanlick. 

“This new resource will encourage individuals to seek help without fear of judgement, offering early intervention and support to prevent the escalation of mental health issues and ultimately save lives.” 

The 988 network currently includes 40 mental health service providers across Canada, including CAMH, nine CMHA branches, distress call centres and single service agencies. 

These providers have extensive experience leading crisis response in their local communities and are committed to working closely with CAMH to advance suicide prevention services.

“Compass is honoured to have been chosen as one the 18 agencies in Ontario providing this critical service,” said Compass Community Services executive director Joanne Young Evans. 

“While this is a critical step in making mental health care more accessible, further investments are needed to address mental health issues in the early stages and improve long-term outcomes.”

Existing distress and crisis lines such as 1-844-HERE247 and the Compass Community Services Distress Line at 1-888-821-7760 will also continue, to make sure “that every door is the right door” to receiving quality mental health and addictions crisis services, officials state.