Canada’s mental health system needs radical surgery, from how it responds to 911 calls about emotional crisis in the streets to its antiquated policies on preventing suicide. Kathleen Finlay makes the case for changes, like a 988 three-digit national mental health distress and suicide prevention lifeline, that can make a big difference. It’s part of her series on building a 21st century approach to mental health.   


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From the Hill Times


The Center for Patient Protection was the first to call on the federal government to include mental health support in its strategic response to the COVID-19 crisis. We vigorously advocated for that action in interviews, newspaper columns and in social media over several weeks.

Within days of publishing these columns, Prime Minister Trudeau announced the creation of a mental health portal as part of the federal government’s COVID-19 strategy. We will have more to say about the government’s approach to mental health soon.



After weeks of advocacy by The Center for Patient Protection on CBC National News, CTV News, in newspaper columns and on social media, the government of New Brunswick became the first province to eliminate the 30-day limit on prescription medication, which had been costing customers 3 times more in dispensing fees.

A Message for Visitors about the Coronavirus Crisis

Welcome to the special page for The Center for Patient Protection’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this unprecedented public health crisis, The Center for Patient Protection will be concentrating its work on standing firm for the hard won principles of patient and family engagement and consultation in the healthcare decisions and policies that affect them, and on giving voice to the impact of this pandemic on the most vulnerable.

We know how stressful it can be when loved ones are hospitalized and family members cannot provide the supportive care they normally do. We also know that the jarring swirl of events each day, on top of sudden financial pressures and even forced isolation, can take an emotional toll on the strongest among us.

For the duration of this crisis, we will be suspending the regular work of our outreach clinic, which has helped and supported patients and families around the world for the past decade, in order to focus our advocacy, including working with the media, on the needs of our patient, family and mental health communities as they become impacted by this epidemic. Our media work and published op-eds have begun to address major shortcomings in the approach of governments to the crisis, and we will continue to engage in those positive contributions.

If you need to reach The Center, please see our contact page. For your own safety, and for the well-being of everyone in your immediate or extended family, please follow the advice of healthcare professionals. If you think you might have symptoms, use the COVID-19 symptom self-assessment tool. If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, call 9-1-1. If you or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts, you can reach Canada’s national 24-hour suicide prevention hotline at 1-833-456-4566. Text messaging is also available with this service. (See more crisis support resources below.) Visitors to this site from the United States can access COVID-19 crisis resources at the CDC here

We are all better when we work together and support each other. Viruses can’t long thrive in that environment.

Stay well!

You are not alone – ask for help if you feel overwhelmed

If you need additional support, call your primary health provider, a registered psychologist or other mental health provider in your community.

If you are in crisis, please contact:

Kids Help Phone

1-800-668-6868 or
Text CONNECT to 686868
Available to young Canadians between 5 to 29 years old who are seeking 24-hour confidential and anonymous care with professional counsellors.

Download the Always There app for additional support.

Hope for Wellness Help Line

Call the toll-free Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 or connect to the online chat.

Available to all Indigenous peoples across Canada who are seeking immediate crisis intervention.

Experienced and culturally competent Help Line counsellors can help if you want to talk or are distressed.

Telephone and online counselling are available in English and French. On request, telephone counselling is also available in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut.

Crisis Services Canada


Available to all Canadians seeking support. Visit Crisis Services Canada for the distress centres and crisis organizations nearest you.

If you think you might have symptoms, use the COVID-19 symptom self-assessment tool

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Here’s a snapshot of some of the media work and advocacy we’re doing in response to the COVID-19 challenge.

Protecting patients and families by advocating to ensure compliance with basic principles of patient safety and patient and family engagement in all phases of COVID-19 decision-making and that principles of transparency and accountability, essential to confidence in our healthcare systems, do not become casualties of the virus, too.  This has been our mission from the beginning. It is all the more important during the current public health crisis.


Protecting the most vulnerable by ensuring that the federal government treats the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of Canadians with the attention it deserves.




Protecting seniors and our elderly, who are at the highest risk of serious health outcomes from the virus.





Protecting from the risk of suicide, heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic.



You can also follow our Tweets about COVID-19 here. 

Our Campaign to Save Lives: A re-imagined approach to preventing suicide.  A 988 hotline that can be a life ring. Visit the new site of our 988 Campaign for Canada.


See Kathleen Finlay’s interview on CTV National News with Lisa LaFlamme


See complete interview and story


Suicide is becoming an epidemic among some population groups in Canada. Victims of gender-based violence and bullying are especially at risk, as are members of our indigenous communities. We call for a new approach and fresh thinking to address this public health crisis, including the creation of a national three-digit 988 suicide prevention hotline network. 


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