Tech expert builds multi-media suicide prevention service

February 05, 2018

Adapted from an article by Nancy Abra,(Nancy.ellen.abra@gmail.com), Originally published in THE DORCHESTER SIGNPOST, January 3, 2018

Suicide affects people of all ages and backgrounds. Each day, approximately 11 people in Canada die by suicide, which totals more than 4,000 people per year. This means that suicide remains one of the leading causes of death in Canada, a death which does not discriminate with respect to age, gender, economic situation, race, religion or culture. And, its tragic results can be devastating to both families and communities.

In November 2016, the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, announced the Government of Canada’s support for the development of a national suicide prevention service. The service would use text, chat and phone technology, integrating and linking existing regional distress and crisis line services across Canada.

Taking into account that the regional crisis support services use a broad variety of IT and communication technologies, the challenge was to link and integrate the new virtual contact centre service with the many disparate existing legacy IT, telecom and network technologies currently in use. That’s where Roberta J. Fox-Lawson, Chief Innovation Officer of Fox Group Technology, based in Thorndale, Ontario, came on board.  Her job was to solve this near impossible feat for the new Canadian Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS).

Fox-Lawson is a senior-level technology digital adviser well versed in developing complex technology strategies and services. She brings more than 33 years of experience in designing, installing and managing complex technology environments from her former roles with Citibank Canada, Hewlett-Packard, AT&T Corp and Deloitte Consulting.

Fox-Lawson, said, “This type of multi-media innovative integrated multi-media solution has never been successfully deployed anywhere in the world. I am so proud of this prototype project, in that it is already making a difference in helping provide suicide prevention and support to Canadians using the voice, text and chat communication method they prefer”.

The new CSPS initiative enables people from anywhere in Canada to access suicide prevention and crisis support using the technology of their choice – phone, text or chat, in English or French. You can call toll free at 1-833-456-4566, text 45645, or chat online at crisisservicescanada.ca.

During the first day of its launch, the service successfully engaged in the active rescue of an 11-year-old girl living in Ontario. What was unique in this situation was the fact that the suicide intervention support provided to her was delivered via chat by a volunteer located at a Crisis Services Canada member distress centre in Calgary.  The number of active rescues continues to grow with the text and chat methods being the preferred method of communications for those with thoughts of suicide who need support.

The people, processes and technologies integrated together were able to get her the suicide prevention support she needed.   This young girl’s life was saved that night because of the coordination of access and skilled resources.

Fox-Lawson added, “I am keen to continue to work with the expanding network of distress centres to evolve the Crisis Services Canada technology capacity and solution to support the changing needs of Canadians as their communications preferences change and evolve.”


If you or someone you care about needs assistance or help related to suicide, connect with us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year:

For residents of Quebec, call 1 866 APPELLE (1 866 277 3553)


If you would like to inquire about becoming a Crisis Services Canada Member, contact us at info@CrisisServicesCanada.ca, or call our new national office at 437-317-4488 and press 1 for information.

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