What to expect when you call or text 9-8-8
What to expect when you reach a 9-8-8 responder
They will listen. The person you connect to will listen with compassion and without judgement, and give you space to talk.
They will engage with empathy. Whatever you are going through, they want to understand.
They will support you. 9-8-8 responders can help you explore ways to create safety when things are overwhelming.
We take your privacy and security very seriously.
Find out more about using 9-8-8, including what we do with the information you choose to share with us.
What happens when I call?
Everyone who calls 9-8-8 will reach a responder who will listen and provide support. If you need to wait for a short time, please stay with us – we will answer your call.
Before you connect to a responder:
- You will hear a brief recorded message to let you know you are in the right place.
- You will be able to choose whether you want to speak to someone in English or French.
Most callers will be able to choose to let us know if they are under 18 or if they are First Nations, Inuit, or Métis.
We will also let you know how you can find out more about 9-8-8, including about confidentiality.
In some parts of Canada, you will be connected to the existing crisis service for your province or territory and will hear a welcome message from that service.
I’m really struggling but I’m not sure if 9-8-8 can help me. Should I still call/text?
Whatever you’re going through, you are not alone. 9-8-8 responders are here to help you find a way through, no matter what it is you are dealing with.
No problem is too difficult – whatever you choose to share with us, we won’t judge you.
If you’re not sure if you need help, please reach out to 9-8-8 – a responder will be there to listen and talk things through with you.
What languages do you offer?
9-8-8 is available 24/7 in English and French.
If you would like to speak to someone in another language, this may be available by phone, via an interpreter – just let the responder know when you first get through to them and they will let you know what to do next.
Can I call 9-8-8 from a payphone?
Yes, you can call from a payphone. You do not need to put money into a payphone in order to call 9-8-8.
Can I access 9-8-8 if I am Deaf or Hard of Hearing?
If you are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, there are three ways you can get help from 9-8-8:
- Use the Canada Video Relay Service (Canada VRS) to call 9-8-8.
Canada VRS connects you to a video interpreter (VI) who facilitates the call in American Sign Language (ASL) or Langue des signes du Québec (LSQ).
The service is free, and available 24/7, 365 days a year.
Find out more on the Canada VRS website: srvcanadavrs.ca/en/9-1-1-and-9-8-8/
9-8-8 responders have been trained to handle calls from people who use Canada VRS and work with interpreters to provide support.
- Use Teletypewriter (TTY) and Internet Protocol (IP) Relay Services
Both TTY and IP relay services use a relay operator to read what you type to a responder, and transcribe what they are saying back to you.
If you want to use TTY to call 9-8-8, dial 7-1-1 to reach a relay operator.
If you want to use an IP Relay Service, you can log into a web portal using a device that is connected to the internet (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, computer).
9-8-8 responders have been trained to answer calls from people who use TTY and IP relay services.
- You can also text 9-8-8 any time you need support.
Can I contact 9-8-8 if I don’t have a cell phone?
You can call 9-8-8 from either a landline or a cell phone. Texting services are only available by cell phone.
Will 9-8-8 call me back if I hang up?
9-8-8 responders will only call you back if they are concerned about your safety.
Why is 9-8-8 focused on suicide? I thought this was a mental health line?
9-8-8’s main goal is to prevent suicide.
However, we know that people who are experiencing a mental health crisis are at greater risk of suicide. We also know that people who are at risk of suicide may not always realize that they are experiencing suicidal thoughts.
Because of this, no one who reaches out to 9-8-8 will be turned away. If you reach out, 9-8-8 responders will support you, whatever you are going through.
Who do I call if I need mental health support?
If you want to find a therapist or other mental health services in your area, you can call 211 in most parts of Canada, or visit 211.ca. The service is free and confidential, and is available 24/7, in more than 150 languages, by phone, chat, text, and web.
You can also reach out to your primary care provider.
I called/texted and got a message that I was being transferred to another service. Why?
We will always be as transparent as possible about who you will be talking to.
In some parts of Canada, if you call or text 9-8-8 you will be connected directly to the existing crisis service in your province. This means that when you call or text from an area code in one of these provinces, you will be talking to someone who is close to home.
If you select the option to get support for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis at the beginning of your call, we will connect you directly to Hope for Wellness, our partner service with expertise in supporting First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities. This is so you can get the most culturally appropriate support.
Do you record calls and texts?
We may monitor or record your call or keep a transcript of your text for training purposes or to improve the quality of the service.
Before a recording starts, and before you are connected to a responder, you will hear a message letting you know this will happen.
We will also give you a link to the page on our website where you can find out more about call recording, privacy and confidentiality, and how your information will be used. By proceeding with the call, you are agreeing to this recording.
What information do you collect about callers/texters? Do you share it with anyone else?
It is up to you how much or how little personal information you share with us.
9-8-8 responders will only ask for personal information:
- To provide culturally affirming support
- If they feel it is necessary to keep you safe.
We will only share information about people who call or text:
- if it’s necessary to keep you safe, and then we share the minimum amount of information required
- to make sure that you don't have to re-tell you story every time you reach out
- without personal identifying details, to improve the quality of our service.
We will keep any information you choose to share with us via call or text in a secure system.
What happens when I text?
Everyone who texts 9-8-8 will reach a responder who will listen and provide support. If you need to wait for a short time, please stay with us – we will answer your text.
Before you connect to a responder:
- You will be asked to let us know if you want to text in English or French
- You will be sent a link to where you can find out more about 9-8-8, including about confidentiality.
In Quebec, you will be connected to the existing crisis service for your province or territory and will receive a welcome message from that service.
How much does it cost to contact you?
Calling 9-8-8 is toll-free, which means you can call for free wherever you are in Canada, from any device, whatever kind of phone plan you have.
Texting 9-8-8 is free if you have an unlimited texts plan. If you have a monthly limit for text and you go over this limit, you may be charged by your service provider.
If you are unsure if you have an unlimited text message plan, please reach out to your service provider for more information.
Who will I be speaking to/texting with?
Whether you reach out by phone or text, you will connect to someone who has been trained in suicide prevention. This means that if you are having thoughts of suicide or you are worried about someone else, the person you speak to will have had specific training in how to support you.
9-8-8 responders are ordinary people like you and me. Whoever you connect to, they will always listen with compassion and without judgement, and give you space to talk. They are here to help you think through ways to keep yourself safe when things are overwhelming.
Can you really help me?
“I was feeling down, and he made me feel much better”
“I have a much more positive outlook”
“your many volunteers… have helped me greatly in pushing through the dark and back into the light”
These are some of the things we hear from people who reach out to us. Whatever you are facing, please reach out. Our responders are caring people who are committed to doing their best to provide meaningful help.
Will I have to wait?
Our goal is to connect to you as quickly as possible. Sometimes, if we are experiencing high demand, you might need to wait for short time.
If no responders are available when you reach out to 9-8-8, your call or text will be placed in a queue.
If you do end up needing to wait for a short time, please stay with us. You are not alone. You can also try calling/texting us.
If you have already taken steps to end your life or seriously harm yourself, please call 9-1-1 right away or go to your nearest emergency department.
Will you call 911/the police?
We understand people might have concerns about 9-8-8 calling 9-1-1 or involving the police or other emergency services. In the vast majority of calls and texts, we will not involve emergency services.
Our goal is to make sure everyone who reaches out to us stays safe. We will only call emergency services if you are at risk of dying or seriously harming yourself — if you are expressing a strong desire to take your own life, you tell us you are in the process of ending your life, or tell us that you may do so in the very near future. The most important thing to remember is this only happens in a very small number of cases.
If you are calling about yourself and you need emergency help, the responder will make every effort to support you and help get you to a safe place. We will try other options for safety planning before contacting emergency services. We’re not able to promise we won’t call 911, but we will do our best to support you whatever happens.
If you’re thinking about reaching out to us but you’re unsure because you’re worried about emergency services being involved, please call or text us — we can talk it through with you.
If the person I am talking to does call 9-1-1, what happens next?
On the rare occasions that we call emergency services, it usually means that emergency responders will come to see you, in-person, wherever you are. Depending on your location and your situation, it may be the police who come to check on you, or it may be another service (e.g. EMS, fire and rescue). Often all appropriate services will respond to a 911 call. Again, this only happens in a very small number of cases, when your safety is at serious, imminent risk. If you’re worried, please call or text us and we can talk it through.