'Very heartbreaking': Proposed suicide prevention committee rejected by Sask. government

A bipartisan special committee to address the ongoing mental health, addictions and suicide crisis in Saskatchewan will not be formed, after the government opted to reject motion put forward by the NDP opposition on Tuesday.

The motion requested both parties work together to find solutions to the high number of suicides in hearing from affected families, experts and leaders. It was put forward by NDP MLA Doyle Vermette after Question Period.

“I’m not saying the government has to fix everything,” Vermette said.

“Let’s make sure there’s not barriers and hurdles for families. Let’s make sure we’re hearing what the experts are saying, let’s listen to families, let’s listen to leaders, let’s listen to frontline workers who can give good suggestions. Let’s look at other jurisdictions and make some recommendations.”

Vermette said he would like the propsed committee to travel around the province to hear from stakeholders on what the key fixes to the current system should be.

The NDP was joined at the Legislative Building by three families who have lost loved ones to suicide who support the call for more action.

Jude and Frannie Ratt lost their daughter, Betty, in December.

“It was very heart breaking,” Jude said. “She took her own line and a few days later, on my wife’s birthday, she had to bury her only child.”

Jude said they sought help for their daughter but there weren’t enough professionals available.

“We tried everything we could think of to help her get the help she needed,” he said.

They also lost their niece to suicide, and said they could not get help for her either. Jude said they plan to keep trying to raise awareness about the suicide crisis in Saskatchewan.

“We can only do so much. We’re not the government, so we need the government to step up and help. There are a lot of people that need help,” Jude said. “It’s almost impossible to get help professionally.”

The Saskatchewan Party did not agree to the motion to work alongside the NDP in the proposed special committee.

During Question Period, Premier Scott Moe said more help is needed in the province.

“Specific to psychiatrists, we’re up about 38 per cent from where we were when we took government,” Moe said. “We need more. We have positions that are open across this province that are already funded and we need to ensure we’re intensifying our efforts to recruit for those positions.”

Moe, along with the Minister for Mental Health and Addictions Everett Hindley, said the government did not agree to the proposed special committee because there is already a committee of experts focusing on suicide prevention under the its Pillars for Life program.

“We do have a number of mechanisms already in place,” Hindley said. “Pillars for Life does have a strategic planning and oversight committee that has a number of representatives from a variety of ministries that are collaborating together on this. It also includes groups like the SHA, for example, community organizations and most importantly patients, residents and families that have had their lives tragically impacted by suicide.”

Hindley said impacted families can speak directly with that committee to voice concerns and collaborate. He said the public can also reach out directly to their MLAs.

After the special committee was rejected in Question Period, Ratt said he was very disappointed.

“They obviously don’t understand anything that we’re going through, anything that we’ve said,” Ratt said. “They obviously don’t realize the gravity of the validation that they could give us families that have lost loved ones. Validation is very important.”

He said the government could have showed it cared by agreeing to the committee.