Families desperate for help, NDP calls for suicide strategy

According to the latest figures from the Saskatchewan Coroner’s Service, there were 209 suicides in 2018, an increase of 16 per cent over the previous year. That represents a 69 per cent increase over the number of suicides in the province that took place in 2005, with more than 2,100 lives lost to suicide since then. 

In recognition of the growing crisis, the NDP Mental Health and Addictions Critic and Critic for Northern Saskatchewan joined mental health advocate Marilyn Irwin in Saskatoon today to call on the Saskatchewan government to implement a province-wide suicide prevention strategy.

“The need for a suicide strategy couldn’t be clearer, but this government is nowhere to be found,” said NDP Mental Health and Addictions Critic Danielle Chartier. “Several other provinces have already implemented a suicide strategy, while Saskatchewan falls behind, leaving more and more people teetering on the edge. A suicide prevention strategy will save lives.”

Chartier said a strategy should include guidelines to improve public awareness and knowledge about suicide, more readily available information on suicide statistics and an upstream, evidence-based approach to the prevention of suicide.

Advocates such as Marilyn Irwin, who lost her son to suicide last year, believe a suicide prevention strategy is needed and that it will save lives. 

“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, and it is entirely preventable when the right supports are in place,” Irwin said. “I will continue to fight for those who have been impacted by the loss of a loved one, and for those who feel the stigma around mental health challenges.”

Last year, Critic for Northern Saskatchewan Doyle Vermette tabled Bill No. 613 — The Saskatchewan Strategy for Suicide Prevention Act, 2018. The bill was not passed by the government, making Saskatchewan the first jurisdiction in Canada to fail to pass a bill that aims to reduce suicides. Vermette, who plans to reintroduce the bill in the fall, said that people battling mental health issues in the North urgently need a strategy.

“People and families in the North are desperate for help – they feel like they have nowhere to turn,” Vermette said. “I have been to far too many funerals for young kids who lost hope and didn’t have the supports available. This can’t continue — that is why we’re calling on the government to act.”