Government of Canada announces new fund to complement 9-8-8 helpline to address equity gaps for eligible distress and crisis centres across Canada

News release

September 8, 2023 | Toronto, Ontario | Public Health Agency of Canada

Every action matters when it comes to suicide prevention, from learning the proper language to avoid stigma, to understanding how to support someone who may be considering suicide. Every day, approximately 12 people in Canada die by suicide. Suicide affects people of all ages and backgrounds and the Government of Canada is taking concrete steps to provide people across Canada with the best possible mental health and crisis intervention supports and resources.

Ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th, the Honourable Ya’ara Saks, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, announced today, a call for proposals to access $8 million in federal funding to address gaps in equity, diversity and inclusion within Canada’s distress line sector. Distress lines are a vital part of Canada’s public health approach to suicide prevention, and this program will help ensure distress lines and centres are able to respond to the needs and experience of everyone who calls, regardless of their background, culture or experience. 

This initiative to enhance equity, diversity and inclusion in the distress line sector is an important complement to the 9-8-8: Suicide Crisis Helpline, which will launch in Canada on November 30, 2023.

Existing and eligible distress centres will have opportunities to apply for grant funding to help build their capacity and ability to meet the diverse needs and experiences of those who call and text for help to ensure equitable service.

For more information on how to apply for the grant funding, visit here.  


“When people are in crisis, they need immediate support. Crisis Centres are an integral part of our public health approach to suicide prevention and are often the first point of contact for people who are struggling. They provide that urgent support to people who need it most, no matter their race, religion, culture or socio-economic background. With access to this funding, these important service organizations will be able to increase their ability to support and respond to the diverse needs and experiences of every person who reaches out to them.”

The Honourable Ya’ara Saks

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health 

“Distress centres help connect people across the country to important services and supports that make a difference when someone is in crisis. The funding announced today will help distress centres provide better support for people from diverse backgrounds and communities. We want people to know, if they need help, that 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

Quick facts

  • Health equity approaches are needed to improve access for populations most affected by suicide, including Indigenous, 2SLGBTQIA+, newcomers, veterans, older adults, and those living in rural and remote communities. Providers require capacity and competency to respond to diverse needs and be a trusted resource for people in Canada, regardless of their cultural, social or economic status.

  •  Information pertaining to the objectives of the Distress Line Equity Fund and how to apply can be found here.

  • This is the first of two solicitations for the Distress Line Equity Fund. To provide additional time to those who are unable to apply (e.g., organizations selected to be part of the 9-8-8 network), a second solicitation will take place in December 2023.  The maximum funding available per project will be $250,000 for a maximum duration of 12 months.  

  • While complementary to the 9-8-8 initiative, the Distress Line Equity Fund funding opportunity is separate. All eligible distress lines and centres, whether participating in the 9-8-8 network or not, can apply for funding through the Distress Line Equity Fund.   

Associated links


Alexander Fernandes
Press Secretary and Senior Communications Advisor
Office of the Honourable Ya'ara Saks
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada

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