The topic of suicide is one that can hit very close to home for many people in Saskatchewan.

A new program has been launched for province-wide rapid access to counselling for loved ones of people who have died by suicide, or survived with significant injury or trauma.

“When someone reaches out for help, at that moment, they’ve made a big decision to be courageous, to step into accessing some support and the ability to do that when the time is right for them really matters,” said Kirk Englot, CEO of Family Service Regina.

The launch is part of the province’s Pillars of Life strategy and will include new annual funding of $200,000 to Family Service Saskatchewan to provide the suicide loss support program.

“It’s been identified that losing someone to suicide actually increases one’s risks of suicide themselves so this is actually part of our overall suicide prevention strategy” stated MLA Tim Mcleod, minister of mental health and addictions.

According to a release from the provincial government, Family Service Saskatchewan will offer services that can include referrals, counselling, navigation support, education and awareness for families and communities.

“As part of our suicide prevention strategy, Pillars for Life, it was identified that work can be done to help individuals who are suffering the trauma of the loss of a loved one due to suicide,” McLeod said.

This particular service differs from typical counselling because people do not go through an intake process, which can add significant wait time.

In a statement, NDP MLA Vicki Mowat said, “This is a start, but I question how much impact this investment will have when it’s only 0.04% of the province’s mental health budget. The Premier spent five times this amount on a single trip to Dubai.

“Suicides are going up almost every year and much more can be done to prevent them from ever happening,” her statement continued.

“This government has not fully implemented Doyle Vermette’s suicide prevention bill. They have not even implemented all of the Provincial Auditor’s recommendations from 2019. We need to be treating this crisis with the urgency it deserves.”

This program comes nearly two years after the provincial government shot down a proposed ‘suicide prevention committee’ that was brought forth by the NDP along with three families who had all been impacted the suicides of loved ones.

At the time, Premier Scott Moe and Minister of Health Everett Hindley said they did not agree to the proposal because there was already a committee of experts focusing on suicide prevention under the Pillars for Life program.

“Any loss due to suicide is a tragedy and we are certainly working hard through our provincial strategy, Pillars for Life to address both suicide prevention and to help individuals through the trauma of losing someone to suicide,” McLeod said when asked why implementing a program like this has taken so long.