Government of Canada invests $8.5 million to the Canadian Red Cross to support the mental health of people across the country 

News release

Funding is part of a commitment of $100 million to support those most affected by COVID-19

May 2, 2023 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada

As we recognize Mental Health Week 2023, we remain committed to promoting positive mental health for everyone, particularly individuals who were disproportionally impacted by the pandemic.

Today, Élisabeth Brière, Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, announced $8.5 million in funding to expand the Canadian Red Cross' Friendly Calls program.

The Friendly Calls program pairs a trained Red Cross team member with an adult who could benefit from greater connection or may have limited social and family links. At a regularly scheduled time, Red Cross personnel call the people with whom they are paired for a social chat, connecting them, if needed, with resources available in their community. The program aims to enhance social connectedness and well-being, with a focus on reaching older adults, Indigenous peoples, frontline workers, parents, caregivers and anyone who may benefit from increased access to regular emotional support, social interaction, enhanced coping skills and community connections to other existing support. 

Today’s announcement builds on the Government of Canada’s investments in Budget 2023, including our plan to invest nearly $200 Billion over 10 years to improve health care services for Canadians, reduce surgical backlogs, support health workers, and improve integrated mental health and substance use services. We will continue to do whatever it takes to provide all Canadians with the mental health and substance use supports they need, whenever and wherever they need them.


“Supporting the mental health of all Canadians, including those already facing disproportionate challenges to their mental health, is a priority for our government. As we work to improve Canada’s universal health care system, today’s funding will enable the Red Cross to expand a program that we know is working, and as a result reach more individuals who could benefit from greater social interaction.”

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

“Mental health impacts all of us. Isolation and loneliness can be debilitating. The Canadian Red Cross’ Friendly Calls program helps create meaningful connections between people. I’m thrilled that federal government is funding it.”

Yasir Naqvi
Member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre 

“Canadian Red Cross recognizes, supports and values the power of community and connection as critical elements to the resilience and well-being of individuals and a healthy and responsive continuum of care within Canada. We know there is a tremendous social and emotional benefit to having a kind voice to talk to and a compassionate ear to listen. With funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Government of Canada, more Canadians will benefit from the emotional support and social interaction that the Friendly Calls program can provide through the power of human connection.”

Tanya Elliott
Chief, Health, Canadian Red Cross

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Maja Staka
Press Secretary and Senior Communications Advisor
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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