NDP calling for suicide prevention plan

Danielle Chartier is the NDP critic of mental health and addictions. Submitted photo.

The Saskatchewan NDP is renewing its call for a provincial suicide prevention strategy in light of data showing the number of deaths by suicide increased in 2018.

According to the latest data, there were 209 deaths by suicide in Saskatchewan last year, the highest number since 2005. About three-quarters of the deaths were men.

The 209 deaths was an increase of 16 per cent over the previous year. It’ a 69 per cent increase over the number that took place in 2005.

NDP mental health and addictions critic Danielle Chartier was joined by Doyle Vermeyter, Critic for Northern Saskatchewan and mental health advocates in Saskatoon Tuesday to call on the provincial government o adopt a province-wide suicide prevention strategy.

Last year, Vermette tabled Bill 613, the Saskatchewan Strategy for Suicide Prevention Act 2018. The bill was not passed. The NDP said that makes Saskatchewan the first jurisdiction in Canada to fail to pass a bill aimed at reducing suicide.

Vermette plans to reintroduce the bill in the fall.

“Anytime someone loses a loved one to suicide, it’s heart-wrenching,” Chartier said in a phone interview.

“Speaking from experience, it leaves a hole in loved ones’ hearts that never really heals.”

Chartier has spoken before about her Nephew, who struggled with bipolar disorder and died six years ago.

Suicide is complex. There are almost always multiple causes, but research findings have shown that mental disorder or substance abuse have been found in 90 per cent of people who have died by suicide.

“Other places have done well by implementing a suicide prevention strategy in Canada and around the world,” Chartier said.

“The government is ignoring the call to do this. We would be really happy to work with the Sask. Party government to engage all of the necessary stakeholders to implement a suicide prevention strategy. This isn’t an issue that’s going away.”

In a written statement, Greg Ottenbreit, Minister of Rural and Remote Health said the provincial government is “concerned with recent increases in the number of suicide deaths and will continue to monitor the situation.

“Suicide is a serious, complex issue with many potential causes,” he said.

Ottenbreit pointed to 2014’s 10-year mental health and addictions action plan, which outlined a number of items he called “critical” to suicide prevention efforts.

That plan led to funding for initiatives such as Roots of Hope, mental health first aid trainers provincial suicide prevention protocols, Kids Help Phone, police and crisis teams, Mobile Crisis and mental health capacity building in schools.

“In total, the Ministry of Health will spend about $402 million mental health and additions series and support in 2019-20. This represents a seven per cent increase in mental health funding over 2018-19 investments and a 14 per cent increase in addictions funding over 2018-19 investments,” he said.

“We encourage anyone who needs supports to call HealthLine 811, Kids Help Phone or the Mobile Crisis lines in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert.  All of these helplines provide counselling, support, information and referral services.”

Warning Signs of Suicide

•    Talking about wanting to die

•    Looking for a way to kill oneself

•    Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose

•    Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain

•    Talking about being a burden to others

•    Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs

•    Acting anxious, agitated, or recklessly

•    Sleeping too little or too much

•    Withdrawing or feeling isolated

•    Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

•    Displaying extreme mood swings

What to Do

•    Do not leave the person alone

•    Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs, or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt

•    Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

•    Take the person to an emergency room, or seek help from a medical or mental health professional

Where to get help

Province-wide professional health advice and mental health support: 811

Prince Albert Mobile Crisis Unit Mon – Fri 4 pm – 8 am, Sat – Sun 24 hours:

(Canada) Crisis Services Canada – Suicide Prevention and Support – 24/7 Hours 1-833-456-4566

If someone is in crisis, call 911.