Northern families who have lost loved ones to suicide were in Regina Tuesday as the NDP re-introduced a bill calling on the government to create a suicide prevention strategy.

Sally Ratt, lost her 12-year-old daughter Ariana to suicide, and Linda Roberts, 14-year-old daughter Jadene took her own life.

Ratt said access to timely mental health professionals is a problem in the north.

“Instead of waiting weeks to get to see a counselor, I tried to get my daughter help, her appointment was two weeks, three weeks, a month down the road. She needed the help now,” Ratt told reporters.

The opposition noted in Question Period that over the past 15 years, 2200 people have died from suicide. Deputy leader Nicole Sarauer said that First Nations females are 19 times more like to die of suicide than non-First Nations girls.

“I think we need to do something about the bullying, because we as adults are supposed to be role models. Yes we bully each other but we need to stop it so our children don’t take after us and start bullying each other,” Ratt explained.

Roberts said many youth are screaming for help, wanting more mental health counselors and elder involvement.

Health Minister Jim Reiter said the government is taking youth suicide very serious, having tasked officials a few weeks ago to examine best practices and review other provincial suicide prevention strategies to identify gaps here.

He expects that review to conclude by the end of the year.

While Reiter doesn’t quite support the NDP bill, he said an action plan or strategy could come following the review.

“Suicide is an issue that affects far too many families throughout Saskatchewan,” Cumberland MLA Doyle Vermette said. “I’ve been to far too many funerals for young people, and I’ve seen firsthand the devastation caused by the lack of mental health supports.”

(PHOTO: Linda Roberts holds a photograph of her daughter Jadene. Sally Ratt is in the background. By Dan Jones)