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Help will be three digits away: Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty's bill to establish national suicide hotline passes unanimously

Numbers to soon be changed to 9-8-8
Todd Doherty, Conservative MP for Cariboo-Prince George. (via Kyle Balzer, PrinceGeorgeMatters)

Those who are in crisis across the country will soon have access to help in just three digits: 9-8-8.

This is thanks to Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty, whose motion asking for the national suicide hotline to be changed from the current 10 digits to three was unanimously passed in the House of Commons yesterday (Dec. 11).

"As we continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic, the increased isolation, physical distancing, health and financial concerns has led to heightened anxiety, depression, substance abuse and a suicide crisis," Doherty said in a letter published by PrinceGeorgeMatters in November after he tabled the motion. 

"Canada’s Suicide Prevention Hotline has experienced a call increase of 200% during the pandemic and in British Columbia, the local health services crisis hotlines have been overwhelmed, leading to increased wait times. Imagine calling 9-1-1 during an emergency and being asked to hold the line, or worse, getting an automated message? This is unacceptable."

"Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline in Canada is a standard ten-digit number that, I would argue, is an unnecessary barrier. When someone is in crisis and at the point where they want to ask for help, a simple three-digit and easy to remember number could make the difference between a life saved and a life lost."

In an emotional speech before the bill passed, Doherty said Canadians deserve to have help easily accessible when they need it the most. 

"My office has received countless messages, calls and emails from friends and families of those who have taken their lives," explained the federal Conservative.

"I've heard from those who are suffering silently who have reached out to say, 'Thank you for fighting for them, for giving them hope.'

"Their stories are heartbreaking, but colleagues, we must do better than just give them hope. We can leave a legacy of action by breaking the stigma associated with mental illness and mental injury and eliminating barriers for Canadians who choose to seek help."