Government of Canada invests in mental health and distress centres

News release

Distress centres are experiencing a surge in demand with the impacts of COVID-19 on mental health

August 18, 2022 | Montreal, Quebec | Public Health Agency of Canada

Distress centres are life-saving resources in our communities, and have seen a surge in demand for crisis services since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, Élisabeth Brière, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, announced an investment of $150,000 toward Tel-Aide Montréal to support its crisis line during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will help the organization manage increased demand by recruiting more listeners, and providing them with training and resources to help meet the diverse needs of callers.

This funding is part of a $50 million investment first announced in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement to support distress centres across Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All people in Canada, and particularly those from underserved communities or people with existing health inequalities, need access to critical health and mental health resources and services. As we work with provinces and territories on expanding virtual services, we are making sure that people in Canada can access crisis supports when they need them.

The federal government is committed to supporting people in Canada and their mental health and wellbeing through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. If you or a loved one is struggling, you can access the Wellness Together Canada portal, or call 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 741741 (adults) or 686868 (youth).


“The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted many people, affecting their physical and mental health, employment, relationships and other aspects of life. Distress centres such as Tel-Aide Montreal offer very important assistance to people, connecting them to appropriate supports and resources that will have substantial benefits and help those in crisis. We want people to know that if they need help, they are not alone, and that there is support available to them.”

Élisabeth Brière
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and Associate Minister of Health

“As with many mental support organizations, the last few years of the pandemic have been challenging for staff due to a greater need for listening to people in crisis, the management of more complex cases and the difficulty in recruiting volunteers. In a situation where the needs of the population at risk keep increasing, this investment will allow us to begin the sustainability of Tel-Aide Montréal through concrete actions to seek out new volunteers, train them and increase our retention rate.”

Francine Courtois, DG, Acting Director General, Tel-Aide Montreal

Quick facts

  • One in three Canadians indicated their mental health got worse due to the pandemic.

  • Suicide impacts people of all ages and backgrounds in Canada. Every day, an average of 12 Canadians die by suicide. For every person lost to suicide, many more experience thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.

  • Distress centres, like Tel-Aide Montreal, provide vital mental health support and resources to those in need, including 24-hour crisis support and referrals. 

  • This funding announcement is part of a mental health investment through the Fall 2020 Economic Statement, which provided $93 million in overall funding to support mental health related initiatives, of which $50 million was directed to bolster the capacity of distress centres. 

  • The Public Health Agency of Canada is continuing to work with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and partners to implement and sustain Talk Suicide Canada, a pan-Canadian suicide prevention service that provides crisis support over the phone (24/7) and by text (evenings). This partnership is also curating resources to assist distress centres across Canada in meeting the diverse needs of key populations during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The Wellness Together Canada portal provides free access to educational content, self-guided therapy, moderated peer-to-peer support, and one-to-one counselling with qualified health professionals to support with mental health and substance use. 

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Maja Staka
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health,
Carolyn Bennett

Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada

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