REGINA -- The Saskatchewan legislature passed a bill – which was defeated twice before – to establish a suicide prevention strategy in the province.

MLAs passed Bill 601 Friday. The bill was introduced by NDP MLA Doyle Vermette, who brought the bill forward in 2018 and 2019 before it was voted down by the government.

“Feeling like the heroes are family members that lost loved ones. That this is their victory, that the members in the assembly came together. It’s been a rough fight,” said Vermette. 

When the bill was last voted down, Tristen Durocher decided to walk more than 600 kilometres from Air Ronge to Regina. Durocher held a 44-day ceremony on the grounds of the Legislative Building to raise awareness about high suicide rates among Indigenous people in northern Saskatchewan.

The bill mandates the Ministry of Health to start consultations with stakeholders, establish a suicide prevention strategy and report on progress annually.

The ministry will also be required to provide guidelines to improve public awareness about suicide and make information about suicide statistics and risk factors available, among other things.

 “The bill brought forward by the members opposite is a very important one to the people of this province,” said Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Everett Hindley during Friday’s session.

“We’ve been a government that listens to Saskatchewan people and we heard that passing this legislation would be a meaningful step in supporting suicide prevention efforts across Saskatchewan.”

Passage of the suicide prevention strategy was influenced by Durocher’s march to the legislature last summer and MLAs were also touched by Walsh Acres MLA Derek Meyers’ loss of his daughter, Teigha, to suicide last fall.

“When Teigha was going through her struggles and ultimately lost her battle with mental illness and completed suicide, I didn’t know how to deal with it in a public aspect but it is important to have these conversations,” said Meyers.

“It’s important so that people who are struggling know that there are resources and that they aren’t alone. We are working for them and there is a community and 61 MLAs all coming together all to support them.”