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Letter: Help should only be three-digits away

Todd Doherty, 2019 Conservative candidate for Cariboo-Prince George (via Kyle Balzer)

The following column was submitted to PrinceGeorgeMatters from Todd Doherty, Conservative MP for Cariboo-Prince George and Special Advisor to the Leader on Mental Health and Wellness.

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.

Research conducted by the Canadian Mental Health Association has shown that more Canadians, especially our most vulnerable, are thinking about suicide. First Nation’s communities across Canada are battling a suicide epidemic.

In October, the Sioux Valley First Nation in Manitoba declared a State of Emergency after four of its community members died by suicide in a single month.

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.

Recently, I tabled a motion in Parliament to consolidate existing suicide prevention services into one national, three-digit phone number that is accessible to all Canadians: 9-8-8.

The United States has acted in this regard by passing bi-partisan legislation signed by President Trump. Starting in 2022, Americans will have access to a simple, easy to remember 3-digit National Suicide Prevention Hotline (9-8-8). Here at home, there is no reason why we cannot do the same.

A true Team Canada approach means working together, across party lines for the benefit of all Canadians. This lifesaving initiative needs to be passed and implemented immediately. As leaders, Canadians are counting on us and we need to be there for them.

Please call or email the Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu at: 1-613-996-4792 or to let her know you support the motion.

Help should only be 3-digits away.

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