NDP calls on Sask Party for suicide prevention strategy
A photo of Macrae Irwin and the suicide awareness material created by Marilyn Irwin. (Francois Biber)
A year following the death of her son, Marilyn Irwin says she’s fighting for better suicide-prevention services, “so that no others will have to suffer this fate. The cost of losing is a huge cost.”
Standing next to Saskatoon-Riversdale MLA Danielle Chartier and the MLA for Cumberland, Doyle Vermette, Irwin shared the story of her son MacRae Irwin: a family man with two children, working and thinking about going back to school in Saskatoon.
However, with an addiction to crystal meth, depression, stints at an addictions centre in Ontario and run-ins with law enforcement, Irwin said she was told by healthcare professionals the complexity of MacRae’s mental health was too great to get help in Saskatchewan. Irwin said her son took his life after trying to detox on his own.
“This was a young guy who had a house and a family in Saskatoon and a job. So this can happen to anyone. It can happen to your loved ones. I never thought in a million years I would be telling this story,” Irwin said. “Detoxing on your own from meth is a dangerous situation and it should have been medically assisted.”
Unhappy with the options available in Saskatchewan, Irwin joined NDP MLAs Chartier and Vermette in calling on the provincial government to implement a province wide suicide prevention strategy.
Last year Vermette said he tabled Bill 613 – The Saskatchewan Strategy for Suicide Prevention Act, 2018.
“We wanted them to work with us and help families that have been impacted by suicide. We know it’s a crisis and we wanted to government and the premier would support us, but they let it die on the order paper,” Vermette said. “It’s making sure that the people know that when you ask for help and get support, you’ll have it.”
Chartier pointed to the latest figures from the Saskatchewan Coroner’s Service showing 209 suicides in 2018, a 16 per cent increase from 2017. Vermette also mentioned the lack of mental health and addictions supports in Saskatchewan’s northern communities.
In an emailed statement to CTV News, Rural and Remote Health Minister Greg Ottenbreit said suicide is a serious, complex issue with many potential causes.
“In 2014, our Government produced and endorsed the 10-year Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan, which outlined a number of items critical to suicide prevention efforts,” Ottenbreit said. “In total, the Ministry of Health will spend about $402 million on mental health and addictions series and support in 2019-20.”
He added 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.
“We encourage anyone who needs supports to call HealthLine 811, Kids Help Phone or the Mobile Crisis lines in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert,” Ottenbreit said.