‘Make sure they feel life is worth living’: What Moe and Meili say they’d do to reduce suicides in Sask.
SASKATOON -- When Tristen Durocher walked from La Ronge to the legislature in Regina, it put the issue of suicide in the spotlight. Saskatchewan has some of the highest suicide rates in Canada, with many occurring in Indigenous and northern communities.
During the provincial leaders debate, NDP leader Ryan Meili asked Saskatchewan Party leader Scott Moe why his party voted against legislation on a suicide prevention strategy tabled by the NDP.
"Legislation is not required to work on something as important as suicides,” said Moe.
Moe talked about the Pillars for Life suicide prevention plan released by the Sask. Party, meant to reduce risk factors for suicide.
"Pillars for Life strategy is guiding us through the conversation about how we are engaging,” he explained. “Engaging with our partners across the province on a very important conversation, one around suicides.”
The NDP says if elected, the party will invest $5 million in a suicide prevention strategy. Meili says bringing in legislation with clear goals and guidelines is key, along with access to support.
"That we have counselling that's easily available, so that unlike right now when people can't afford counselling, they get it right away,” Meili said in a recent campaign press conference. “We have dedicated mental health and addictions emergency rooms so that anybody who's struggling…nobody who comes asking for help gets turned away.”
When asked about the Pillars for Life plan, Moe says they have mapped out ways of collaborating and working with partners on what action could be taken to reduce suicides.
"We’ve backed that up with funding. $435 million in funding in this last year's budget in mental health and addictions. That's up 30 million dollars from last year which it builds on a $30 million dollar increase from the year previous.”
Meili says prevention needs to be a focus and he would support closing gaps in justice, education, employment and health care for Indigenous people.
"We work on prevention, making sure that anybody who’s struggling, feeling hopeless, needs help to make sure they feel their life is worth living.”
Both party leaders agree suicide rates need to be a key focus. It is now up to voters to decide which party has the best plan.