SASKATOON -- Within its new strategy to prevent suicides in Saskatchewan, the provincial government starts by describing the toll suicide takes, particularly in the province's north.

"In northern Saskatchewan, suicide is the leading cause of death for people age 10 to 49," Pillars for Life: The Saskatchewan Suicide Prevention Plan says in its introduction.

In Saskatchewan, around 144 people die by suicide a year, the document also says.

The strategy comes a little more than six months after a series of suicides prompted a state of emergency declaration in the northern community of Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation. Later Ochapowace First Nation faced  a similar crisis

“Mental health continues to be a high priority for our government, our health system and our communities,” Rural and Remote Health Minister Warren Kaeding said in a news release.

"This plan will guide activities specific to suicide prevention based on Saskatchewan’s context. "

Kaeding said the plan was informed by careful consideration of suicide prevention approaches across Canada and internationally recognized guidelines.

Over two dozen measures are outlined in the plan, many of which build on existing prevention efforts, including the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Roots of Hope program which is underway in La Ronge, Meadow Lake and Buffalo Narrows according to the province.

"The Saskatchewan Health Authority and many community partners are contributing to this work. We all recognize the need to do more," Kaeding said.

The strategy is divided into five categories or "pillars" as they are described, with each section including more immediate steps and more long-term recommendations.

The measures outlined in the plan focus on areas such as increased monitoring and research, a public awareness campaign focusing on Indigenous youth and reducing barriers for people looking to seek psychiatric help remotely.

Other specific measures include:

  • Providing suitable training to staff located in northwest Saskatchewan caring for patients at risk of suicide.
  • Expanding mental health first aid training across the province and among other human service sectors and ministries.
  • Analyzing reasons patients at risk of suicide miss appointments for mental health outpatient
  • services to help address barriers.
  • Supporting the province's health authority in their efforts to host a range of cultural
  • responsiveness training to ensure the health system is more accommodating to First Nations and Métis patients and their families.
  • Improving infrastructure within hospitals, particularly inpatient mental health centres to reduce the risk of suicide
  • Periodically inspecting the safety of health authority facilities in northwest Saskatchewan providing services to patients at risk of suicide

If you or someone you know is in crisis, here are some resources that are available. Crisis Services Canada (1-833-456-4566 or text 45645) and Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868) offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues. If you need immediate assistance call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. The Centre for Suicide Prevention is a place where resources on suicide prevention can be found.