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‘9-8-8 is going to save lives’: B.C. MP on new suicide crisis helpline

Federal government launched the hotline in response to Todd Doherty’s longstanding mission
Cariboo-Prince George Conservative MP Todd Doherty speaks in the House Of Commons. (Hansard image)

The federal government launched a national suicide hotline, 9-8-8, Thursday morning (Nov. 30), fulfilling Cariboo-Prince George Conservative MP Todd Doherty’s mission to provide more tools for people in crisis.

Doherty, who is the Conservative Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, tabled the motion in Dec. 2020 which received unanimous consent in the House of Commons. “9-8-8 is going to save lives,” said Doherty while speaking about the loss of his best friend to suicide when he was 15-years-old.

“9-8-8 is born out of those stories that we hear sitting with the families that have been left behind, the moms, the dads, the wives, children of those that have died by suicide … you can’t help but bear the weight of responsibility when you hear those stories,” Doherty said in a social media video post following the Nov. 30 announcement.

The three-digit suicide crisis helpline is available to call or text, in English and French, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, across Canada.

The federal government has committed to $156 million over three years to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to implement and operate the 9-8-8: Suicide Crisis Helpline.

CAHM will work with local partners across provinces to power the hotline, these include, Distress Centres of Greater Toronto and Gerstein Crisis Centre, Distress Centre of Ottawa, Crisis Prevention, Intervention and Information Centre for Northern BC, Canadian Mental Health Association Edmonton as well as national partners such as Kids Help Phone and Hope for Wellness, who will continue to provide dedicated service through 9-8-8 to youth and Indigenous communities.

A day before the suicide prevention hotline went live, on Nov. 29, Doherty also voiced concerns in the House of commons after a 12-year-old constituent from Prince George, Carson Cleland, died by suicide on Oct. 12 after he was sexually extorted online.

He said from the time the boy was contacted online until his death was just 12 hours.

“We must do whatever we can to hunt down these predators and bring justice for the victims,” Doherty said.

READ MORE: Frank talks urged in wake of sextortion death of Prince George 12-year-old

According to statistics, every day in Canada there are approximately twelve people who die by suicide.

“Often, they have nowhere to turn, no one to talk to and no way of getting help,” said Doherty. “With the implementation of 9-8-8, we have one more tool in the toolbox to make sure people have access to trained professionals.”

“9-8-8 will help reduce barriers to mental health access regardless of geographic location or socioeconomic status and will be available from coast to coast, 24/7, free of charge. Canadians who do not feel comfortable talking to someone can also text and receive counselling,” Doherty said.