Editor’s Note: The article mentions suicide and self-harm. Students can reach out to KPU’s 24/7 counseling services at 1.844.451.9700, the new 9-8-8 Suicide Crisis Helpline, the 24/7 Talk Suicide Canada hotline at 1-833-456-4566, or the BC Crisis Centre hotline at 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE). Help is available, please reach out.
In November, a new three-digit helpline for suicide crises launched nationally, allowing users to call or text 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
9-8-8 is completely free of charge and accessible in all provinces and territories in the country.
The service is funded by the Government of Canada and administered by the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, whose mission for 9-8-8 is to prevent suicide.
A 2023 report by Statistics Canada found about 12 people die by suicide every day, which is the second leading cause of death among youth and young adults aged 15 to 34.
“With [the] launch of the 9-8-8: Suicide Crisis Helpline, people across Canada have access to an important life-saving service no matter the time of day or where they live,” said Ya’ara Saks, minister of mental health and addictions and associate minister of health in a press release.
“Our message to anyone who is struggling across Canada: you are not alone, help is available.”
A sharp decline in mental health among youth and young adults was observed during the pandemic and has struggled to climb back up to pre-pandemic levels.
Lynda Beveridge is the director of counseling and accessibility services at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and has over 24 years of experience as a post-secondary clinical educator.
She says the roll-out of 9-8-8 is a positive step in the right direction for Canada.
“Having one number that is three-digits [and] fairly simple to remember, I imagine is a really great step forward in terms of remembering and access for students, or young people,” Beveridge says.
Another way this service aims to lower barriers and increase accessibility is through its texting service.
Beveridge believes having this option will reduce hesitancy for those who wish to reach out but do not want to talk on the phone.
“It might give them time to think, they won’t feel so challenged, they’ll be able to pause and reflect on what they want to say, and that could be helpful,” Beveridge says.
A 2020 study reviewing the impacts of youth mental health in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic found 17 per cent of respondents don’t know where to turn for help.
Beveridge says awareness of this service and others like it are critical to their success.
“It’s vitally important that people are aware that there are services to support them and to help them and that they’re not alone in feeling some of the distress that they’re feeling in their life,” Beveridge says.
While 9-8-8 is a suicide prevention service, they have committed to taking every call, regardless of the mental health concern.
“People often feel that they are not sick enough, or they’re not bad enough to make a call and ask for help, … so they suffer in silence for a lot longer than they need to,” Beveridge says.
“You don’t need to suffer in silence or think that your challenges aren’t important because they are.”
Students are encouraged to use KPU’s free counseling service, which can get students in for a meet-and-greet appointment within a week, visit KPU’s health and wellness page, and attend the Student Mental Health Fair on Jan. 31.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and 9-8-8 did not respond to interview requests.