John — whose last name CBC News has agreed to withhold to protect his privacy — said it took six phone calls to get through to someone on Suicide Action Montreal’s overnight hotline.
He said when he made his first call for help at 4:46 a.m. he was forwarded to a recorded message.
“My first call was met with … a prerecorded message telling me that they could not take my call and to call back later,” he told CBC’s Daybreak.
After repeated attempts, he said he finally connected with someone at 5:10 a.m.
“I understand it’s a lack of resources, but do something about it or don’t call yourself a 24-hour hotline. Call yourself a maybe 24-hour hotline,” he said.
John said he’s fortunate to have a supportive wife and family, who will counsel him through difficult moments when he can’t get professional help.
But he's concerned other people could be at risk.
“I think that some people would not be calling for half an hour …. They would just lose faith as soon as they hit that .... automated message.”
Suicide Action Montreal apologizes
Sharon Casey, a trainer and consultant at Suicide Action Montreal apologized for what happened.
"We can understand just how hard it is for some people to call, to just pick up the phone and ask for help, and we never want them to have to do it more than once," she said.
"The first response on behalf of Suicide Action Montreal, is to just say, we're very sorry that he had that difficult moment."
Casey admits that from the 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. time slot, there is only one person answering the hotline for the entire island of Montreal.
"We agree with him that this is really a problem," she said. "We don't want this to happen to anyone."
Casey told CBC's Daybreak the problem is a lack of resources.
She said in the past three years, the number of calls to the hotline have gone up by about 30 per cent.
Casey said the number of calls continues to increase, but the hotline isn't getting the funding it needs to support that.