REGINA – Today, Cumberland MLA Doyle Vermette, Official Opposition Critic for Mental Health and Addictions, introduced Bill 601, The Saskatchewan Strategy for Suicide Prevention Act, 2021. Despite government MLAs previously voting against the same bill in the last legislature, MLA Vermette hopes the government’s new stated focus on mental health will cause them to re-evaluate their vote and introduce a much-needed strategy to address the crisis of Northern suicide.
“I’m going to take this government at their word, that they truly believe that we need to increase mental health supports for all those across the province, especially in the North,” said Vermette “COVID-19 has exposed the tremendous gaps in our supports for mental health and addictions. It’s time to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk. There are too many families, too many young lives at stake.”
Throughout the pandemic, the Sask. Party government have stated their commitment to addressing mental health concerns faced by the people of Saskatchewan but have not yet addressed the high suicide rates in the province’s Northern regions. Suicide remains a leading cause of death in Saskatchewan’s North and disproportionately affects First Nations and Métis youth.
“You simply can’t ignore these numbers. Behind those numbers are real people, real families, who have been devastated by this loss,” said Vermette. “It’s time to put some action behind these steps and to work with communities, especially Northern and Indigenous communities to find a solution to address this crisis.”
The NDP bill would mandate the Ministry of Health to start consultations with relevant stakeholders and groups within 180 days of coming into force for the development of the strategy. It would also direct the Ministry of Health to establish a suicide prevention strategy and report annually on the progress it has made, and would further require the Ministry to:
- Provide guidelines to improve public awareness and knowledge about suicide;
- Disseminate information about suicide and suicide prevention;
- Make information about suicide statistics and risk factors available;
- Promote collaboration across jurisdictions and regions;
- Define best practices for suicide prevention and;
- Promote the use of research and evidence-based practices for the prevention of suicide.