Even now, as a mental health advocate, Marilyn Irwin says she has a hard time navigating the health care system to find support.Irwin lost her son Macrae May to suicide in May 2018. He lived with depression and an addiction to crystal meth. His complex mental health needs had him in and out of police custody and emergency rooms as his loved ones tried to find him proper ongoing treatment. The father of two took his life after attempting to self-detox.“He was an awesome and beautiful young man,” Irwin said. “I’m going to fight this fight so no others will have to suffer this fate. Because it’s not just the person that died by suicide, it’s the people that are left behind.”Months later, Irwin was again making calls trying finding accessible services for her daughter-in-law, who was deeply affected by the trauma of Macrae’s death and had overdosed. She ended up sending her to the same private, out-of-province clinic her son had once attended after facing roadblocks.
Marilyn Irwin lost her son to suicide last year and is an advocate for mental health initiatives.
Liam Richards /
Irwin’s story, about seeking help but not being able to find it, is an unfortunately common one, said Danielle Chartier, the Saskatchewan NDP’s mental health and addictions critic.Speaking at her constituency office on Thursday, she, Irwin and Doyle Vermette, the party’s northern Saskatchewan critic, said they want to see a provincial suicide prevention strategy put into place.“When (people) reach out and need help, that help has to be here, whether you’re at the point where you are experiencing suicidal ideation or you’re a young person who needs some intervention early on,” Chartier said.According to the Saskatchewan Coroner’s Service, 209 suicides were recorded in the province in 2018, a 16 per cent increase from the 180 deaths by suicide the previous year. Since 2005, 2,100 lives have been lost to suicide; the number increased 69 per cent between 2005 and 2018.Last year, Vermette tabled Bill 613, the Saskatchewan Strategy for Suicide Prevention Act. It died on the Legislative Assembly’s order paper in May, but Vermette plans to reintroduce it as a private member’s bill in the fall.The strategy is a collaborative effort between many parties, including the Saskatchewan Health Region, school divisions, First Nations leadership, community members and affected families.“A suicide prevention strategy that brings the partners together and is multi-pronged will save peoples lives,” Chartier said. “Far too many people have to go to funerals on a regular basis because we don’t have one.”Chartier said she would like separate triage and emergency services available for mental health issues, increased public awareness around suicide and upstream investment in the socioeconomic factors contributing to mental health issues and addictions.Those factors, including poverty and homelessness, are exacerbated for people living in northern communities, Vermette said, adding that many are unable to travel to Saskatoon or Prince Albert to access services.“To have someone lose a loved one because their child has reached out saying ‘I need help’ and the help isn’t there, that’s where I’ve seen the families that have shared with me that they’re so hurt and frustrated,” he firstname.lastname@example.orgRelated