South Surrey-White Rock MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay has called on the federal government to accelerate a national three-digit suicide prevention hotline, a motion for which passed unanimously in the House of Commons in December.
“More than five months have gone by since the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion for the Liberal government to take ‘immediate action’ to establish a national three-digit suicide prevention hotline. In that time, the government has failed to act,” Findlay said in a news release issued last week.
“The pandemic has forced us to isolate from family, friends, and support systems. We have always needed this 9-8-8 hotline, but never more so than right now. The mental health and wellness of Canadians is on the line. Canadians from coast-to-coast, including many here in South Surrey-White Rock, simply can’t afford to wait any longer.”
On Dec. 11, Todd Doherty, MP for Caribou-Prince George, introduced the motion for the bill on Dec. 11, 2020 and it received unanimous consent. On May 7, Mark Strahl, MP for Chilliwack-Hope, seconded the private members Bill C-294, to set up 988, a national suicide prevention hotline.
Shortly after releasing her written statement, Findlay told Peace Arch News that mental-health issues have become exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic – including on the Semiahmoo Peninsula.
“We have an increased number of people who are struggling, isolated, depressed because of the pandemic; we receive quite a few calls from seniors, who call just to have someone to talk to,” she said.
“They’re feeling particularly lonely. Many of them live alone, and we’ve had a few who have become favourites – they call and just want to chat for awhile. It’s really concerning when people want to come (to the office) just to talk to a real-life human being. They don’t have (an issue to discuss), they’re just people who live alone, and they’re feeling lonely, and cut-off.”
It’s not only seniors who are feeling the mental strain of the last 14 months, Findlay said. Her office has also received calls from students, as well as parents who are worried not only about their own mental well-being, but also that of their young children.
Findlay also mentioned domestic violence – a problem that has also increased as a result of the pandemic – as another reason a suicide-prevention hotline, and increased mental-health support in general, is necessary.
“I’m on the justice committee in the House of Commons and we just finished a report… on COVID and domestic violence. And it’s not just the number of incidents (that has gone up), but the severity of the incidents – and the principal victims are women and children. It’s very concerning,” she said.
“If you really feel desperate and need to talk to someone, it would be good to have an exclusive line where you have trained people on the other end of the phone who can talk to people who are at a low point in their life. It would be easily accessible, and people would get to know it just like they know 911.”
Findlay isn’t the only local politician demanding increased mental-health support for those in need. Earlier this year, MLA Trevor Halford (Surrey-White Rock) was critical of a website created by the provincial government to help people deal with stress and mental-health issues during the pandemic.
“People need real support that provides relief, not an online hub that doesn’t provide much more than a telephone number on how they can maybe get help.
“People need to know that if they call, they will get actual help,” Halford, the BC Liberals’ mental health and addictions critic, said in news release issued in April.