Canadian Mental Health Association staff and volunteers experienced increased Crisis Line calls with COVID-related concerns. (CMHA photo)

Canadian Mental Health Association staff and volunteers experienced increased Crisis Line calls with COVID-related concerns. (CMHA photo)

North Okanagan MP pushes for national suicide hotline

Mel Arnold seeks support from North Okanagan-Shuswap municipalities for 988 hotline

The North Okanagan-Shuswap Member of Parliament is asking local municipalities to back a motion to establish a national suicide prevention hotline.

Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty brought forward a motion to the House of Commons on Dec. 11, 2020, to amalgamate all suicide crisis numbers into one “easy to remember three-digit (988) hotline that is accessible to all Canadians.”

There was no opposition.

“The past year has been a challenging year. Lives and livelihoods have been lost. We have begun to see the devastating impacts that COVID has had, through isolation, on the mental health of Canadians,” Mel Arnold wrote to councils in the North Okanagan.

“The rates of suicide continue to rise. As elected officials and as leaders, and especially during this period of difficulty as a nation, Canadians are counting on all of us to make a difference.”

Arnold says one way constituents can show their support is by signing the electronic petition online, which has already garnered more than 1,200 signatures.

READ MORE: Cariboo-Prince George MP’s suicide prevention hotline motion passes unanimously

Doherty, who is the Conservative Party’s Special Advisor to the Leader on Mental Health and Wellness, first raised the issue of a universal 988 hotline during the House of Commons Question Period Oct. 22 in Ottawa.

In bringing 988 forward, Doherty noted the United States has passed legislation so that starting in 2022, Americans will have access to an easy-to-remember three-digit national suicide prevention hotline, 988, and he felt there was no reason why Canada could not do the same.

“Currently, the national suicide prevention hotline in Canada is a standard 10-digit number that, I would argue, is an unnecessary barrier,” Doherty wrote in a recent letter to Black Press.

“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.”

– With Black Press files

READ MORE: Suspicious fire closes Lake Country bank

READ MORE: Vernon man dies in Corkscrew Road crash


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Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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