Sask. NDP introduces legislation for suicide prevention strategy

Linda Roberts holds a photo of her daughter Jadene, who died by suicide. She was 14. .
Linda Roberts holds a photo of her daughter Jadene, who died by suicide. She was 14. . David Baxter / Global News

Linda Roberts held back tears, describing the final time she spoke to her 14-year-old daughter Jadene in the legislative building on Tuesday.

“Keep your family close, you never know. She said ‘goodbye mommy. I’m going to have a good day at school, and you and daddy have a good day at work. I love you,’” Roberts recalled.

Later that day, Jadene died by suicide.

“She’d seen counsellors and was dealing with losing a little friend before to suicide,” Roberts said.

“I’ve lost two nephews in the last two years to suicide in La Ronge, and it doesn’t get any easier. My life’s not getting any easier without her.”

Roberts was part of a group from La Ronge who travelled to Regina, as the NDP MLA for Cumberland once again introduced legislation around developing a suicide prevention strategy.

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READ MORE: Northern Saskatchewan once again struggling with youth suicide

According to the Saskatchewan Coroner’s Service, 2,200 people died by suicide in the province between 2005 and 2019.

Doyle Vermette said a strategy isn’t about assigning blame for shortfalls in things like counselling services, it’s about bringing people together to find solutions.

“It’s about coming together, having a dialogue and a plan, and then having the health region follow through on it to make sure ‘did you achieve the targets?’” Vermette said.

“We can talk to family, frontline workers, everyone … What are the best practices? What are other provinces doing? How can we work together?”

READ MORE: FSIN releases suicide prevention plan

The proposed legislation would task the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) with launching a consultation process on the strategy within 180 days of the bill coming into force. Then the SHA would be responsible for doing an annual progress report.

Health Minister Jim Reiter said they are currently doing a “jurisdictional scan” of suicide prevention ideas in other provinces. The goal is to compile a report to see what may work in Saskatchewan.

Roberts was joined by Sally Ratt, who’s 12-year-old daughter Ariana also died by suicide. Ratt said Ariana had problems with bullying and was stuck on a several week-long waiting list to see a counsellor in La Ronge.

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“I think it’s a start and I think it’s about time that we work together as a province to help each other and heal together,” she said.

READ MORE: Photography club inspires youth in northern Saskatchewan

The NDP previously introduced legislation to develop a suicide prevention strategy, but it did not pass. The government said all it did was order work that is already part of the mental health and addictions strategy.

“To me, what matters to me is what actions are you taking,” Reiter said. “We want to see what other provinces are doing and if there’s best practices we need to do that.”

Potential ideas include a program aimed at building greater capacity in school counselling services, imported from Alberta. Reiter said that province has seen success, and the pilot will be expanded if Saskatchewan sees similar results.

Reiter emphasized that the government sees suicide as a serious issue, and they are open to working with the NDP on developing non-partisan solutions.

The minister hopes to see the results of the jurisdictional scan before the end of the year and will share the results with Vermette once he has been briefed.

For Vermette, it’s about what the government does with that data.

“To me, actions will speak louder than words so we will be watching this closely,” Vermette said.

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If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.