Canadians experiencing a mental health crisis will soon have a new way to reach out for help starting next year.

In a statement last week, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) said starting at the end of November 2023, Canadians will be able to call 988— 24/7—to be connected to a mental health crisis or suicide prevention service, free of charge.

The United States launched its 988 services last month.

According to the CRTC, prior to launching, it must first transition to 10-digit local dialling across the country.

While several provinces have already transitioned to the new format, including BC, seven-digit local dialling is still the norm in Newfoundland and Labrador, northern Ontario and the Yellowknife area.

Service providers will be required to complete the transition by May 31st, 2023.

“The implementation of 988 as an easy-to-remember three-digit number will help reduce barriers to mental health and suicide prevention resources,” the CRTC said.

Once the transition is complete, service providers will have six months to make the necessary changes to their networks to enable callers to dial or text 988.

“We are taking a significant step in making mental health and suicide prevention resources more accessible to everyone in Canada,” CRTC chairperson and CEO Ian Scott said in a statement.

“A single, easy to remember point of contact will provide much-needed help to those in crisis and will be crucial to saving lives.”

Currently, people in Canada who are experiencing mental health distress can obtain help through Talk Suicide Canada by dialing toll-free 1-833-456-4566.

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