Mental health help is as close as your phone

Calling 811 (Saskatchewan Health line) or 211 (a free confidential information and referral system) can connect you to counsellors

It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but for some people, it’s also the most stressful.

“We often see a bit of an increase in our work load in December,” said Tracy Muggli, Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) Mental Health and Addictions Services Director for the Saskatoon area. “Sometimes bad things happen at Christmas time.”

In an interview on Thursday, December 20, Muggli said the media is good at painting a picture of a magical Christmas where everything is perfect

“But I doubt that’s anyone’s actual experience,” she said. “There may be some unrealistic expectations about the perfect family gathering. And if there are stressful family dynamics, financial problems or other trigger factors, December and January can be a very difficult time of year.”

Muggli said there is a range of supports for people struggling with mental health issues like depression.

“The most important support base is made up of family and friends that you can talk to and confide in,” she said. “These are people who care for you and love you.

“But for those without that kind of support, there are formal organizations that can respond.”

Muggli said the Saskatchewan Health Line can be reached by simply dialing in 811.

“The Health Line provides professional health advice and mental health support,” she said. “It’s open 24/7, it’s completely confidential, and it’s free. They have counsellors there who are trained to assess whether people are at risk of harming themselves or others.”

She said the Sask Health Line counsellor can provide an empathetic ear, or if necessary, can also connect the caller with other resources.

Another easy-to-remember phone number is 211, a province-wide initiative by the United Way agencies in Regina and Saskatoon, which went live about six months ago, said Muggli.

“This is a free, confidential information and referral system for thousands of community and social services available across the province,” she said. “It’s available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

The 211 service is also available online at

The database for 211 includes over 5,000 community and social services programs delivered through the province by local community groups, non-profit agencies and government departments.

Muggli said for people in rural areas who may not have a community support service agency nearby, the 811 and 211 numbers offer a fast, confidential way of accessing resources.

She said the SHA Saskatoon area also has a centralized intake number for mental health and addiction-related services. The number is 306-655-7777.

“There are counsellors available to assess suicide risk or any other service that people may need,” she said.

Another intake number that offers mental health counsellors and addictions counsellors is located in Rosthern. That number is 306-232-6001.

“These are not emergency services, but it is a line that provides a connection to a counsellor,” said Muggli. “We never close the door.”
She said the mental health assessment unit at Royal University Hospital provides a more appropriate space for people struggling with mental health issues, so they can be seen in a timely manner.

“If you are feeling suicidal and you have a plan, and the intent, then that would be the appropriate place to go for immediate help,” said Muggli.

She said there is now greater awareness of symptoms that constitute post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), both among the public and health care professionals.

“I think as we understand more about how the brain functions, we’re better able to respond to people who have had traumatic experiences,” she said.