The lack of a suicide prevention strategy was discussed as Mayors and Councilors met in Regina Wednesday.

The NDP’s Doyle Vermette saw his private members bill, tasking the Sask. Health Authority not pass last year, as the Sask. Party had concerns with the timing of the strategy in the bill.

La Ronge Town Councilor Jordan McPhail said there is need for more programming as caseloads for mental health professionals in his community are too high.

“There’s a clear need for it. Increasing people with a Bachelor of Social Work in our schools or available in our health region, and as well for parents trying to deal with this at home,” McPhail explained.

The rate of suicide in northwest Saskatchewan has steadily increased, higher than the provincial average. The Provincial Auditor’s report said the rate of suicide for every 100,000 people spiked from 18.8 to 27.9 from 2016 to 2018, yet the provincial average climbed from 16.4 to 18.7.

“The highest numbers of suicide in Saskatchewan were among children, youths and young adults. The highest number of suicide for men were in the age group of 20 to 29. The highest for women who died by suicide were those between ages 10 and 19,” the report stated.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority is being criticized for not knowing whether services available to at-risk suicide patients in the northwest address the demand for services in the area, because it does not have complete key data or that existing key data is limited.

McPhail isn’t the only person calling for more help for suicide prevention. 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 explained.

Health Minister Jim Reiter told delegates at the Municipalities convention that the government does take suicides and mental health very seriously, suggesting more money in the coming budget.

As for a prevention strategy, Reiter explained that the Ministry was conducting a jurisdictional scan to identify gaps.

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