The provincial government said it will look to improve mental health, addictions services and supports while reducing factors of suicide and increase protections as part of its new suicide prevention plan.

Between 2005 and 2016, approximately 144 people in the province take their lives each year and suicide is the leading cause of death in the North.

The plan looks to partner with the Roots for Hope initiative working in the North to help reduce suicide.

In the first year of the plan, more training will be given to staff in the northwest caring for patients at risk of suicide, analyse missed appointments and follow-up with patients.

The province will undertake a public awareness campaign targeted at northern youth.

The Suicide Prevention Plan has a five-pronged approach; specialized supports, training, awareness, means restriction and means safety and research, surveillance and evaluation.

“While suicide is not a challenge easily or quickly resolved, realization of prevention will be achieved through sustained and coordinated efforts that are linked to the Saskatchewan experience. It is important to acknowledge the multi-layered effects of colonization and residential schools on the Indigenous population,” said the Suicide Prevention Plan.

In December 2019, 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.

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 counsellor, 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.

Last autumn, the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation declared a state of emergency, after three people, including a 10-year-old girl, took their lives and nine other people attempted suicide.

The state of emergency prompted increased supports to the First Nation.

“As psychiatrists, we have of course been very concerned by the high suicide rate in Saskatchewan,” Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Interim Head, Provincial Department of Psychiatry at the University of Saskatchewan Dr. Malin Clark said.  “A comprehensive plan that includes not only delivery of enhanced mental health services but also addresses social factors that contribute to hopelessness and increased suicide risk is necessary as we move forward in efforts to change this statistic.”

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