Close to 300 people gathered outside the Saskatchewan legislature on Friday to call for more mental health supports in the province.

One of the participants was Wanda Ball, who lost her son, Kye, to mental illness just six weeks ago.

“At the age of 13, the school actually noticed before we even did as parents that Kye was struggling,” said Ball. “He had told a friend that he thought about self-harming to deal with his pain.”

Kye was in and out of the hospital for the next three years. Medication didn't help, and after staying in a youth centre for 90 days, the family was told there was no place for Kye. A month later, Kye committed suicide.

“These people feel isolated and there's nowhere for them to go for help,” said Ball. “Once you outstay your hospital stay, where do you go? You go home to suffer.”

Todd Guggenmos lost his son, Lane, to suicide in 2015. He says the province hired more intake workers after Lane died, but it's still not enough.

“We're the parents who said, ‘No one else should ever have to go through what we just went through,’” said Guggenmos.

“Then, to see Kye's family go through what we went through, when you expect changes to make a difference, it's absolutely heartbreaking.”

The province currently spends about $260 million on mental illness supports each year, or about five per cent of the annual health budget. That’s two per cent less than the national average.

The government says it has increased the number of physiatrists in the province by 23 per cent and raised mental health funding by 43 per cent since 2007. Provincial health minister Jim Reiter says he is optimistic the new federal funding allocation – of $348.8 million over the next decade for mental health and home care programming – will make a difference to people suffering from mental illness.

“We think we’ve made significant improvements,” said Reiter. “But we think we can do a lot more.”