Sask. government promises support for North Battleford youth suicides
Since the beginning of the year, North Battleford has seen five youth suicides. This has resulted in the Living Sky School Division calling out to the province for help.
The division has made three request: a 24-hour crisis line, funding for crisis intervention and for Kevin Cameron to develop a trauma protocol, similar to the work he did in La Loche, Sask.
Education Minister Gordon Wyant said the province is replying to all three requests. Wyant said the 811 HealthLine can handle calls, funding is being provided for crisis intervention and $10,000 will be provided for further work with Cameron.
Cameron has hosted training sessions at the Northern Lights School Division, which covers La Loche, Saskatoon School Division, plus both public and Catholic divisions in Prince Albert, Sask.
“I think it’s a valuable resource that we need to be able to deploy in those school divisions as well. It isn’t something we would want to see happen, but there are circumstances where it need to happen,” Wyant said. “La Loche was one and Humboldt was one, and this is a good example of where we need to be able to use those resources in the province.”
Wyant added his deputy minister has been having near weekly conversations with North Battleford school officials.
Three of the suicides took place in January; two were high school students and one was a 21-year-old woman. Those deaths prompted a community meeting with the school boards, RCMP and social agencies aimed at addressing public concerns.
The other two suicides took place since that meeting happened.
Wyant said he can’t share specifics on the cases in regard to if there are common themes involved in the victim’s backgrounds. However, that will be something that is considered in developing a strategy.
“Anybody that’s developing a trauma protocol or looking at resources that are being deployed in the school division is going to be looking for those common themes to help deal with some of the underlying causes,” Wyant said.
The minister added he is optimistic a new mental health pilot program, which has seen positive results in Alberta, will also be able to address needs in Saskatchewan classrooms.
Education critic Carla Beck raised the issue in question period, calling on an implementation of the supports.
“Any time you have a grouping of youth suicides, such as you’ve seen in North Battleford, it comes with very real consequences to the families and the loved ones, but also in the schools,” Beck said.
While Wyant’s deputy minister speaks regularly with division officials, Beck is calling on Wyant to meet with officials in person.
With files from Ryan Kessler and Thomas Piller
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