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Sask. Youth Advocate raises alarm about increase in suicide attempts in care system: report

The Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth released the 2023 annual report on Wednesday, highlighting the challenges faced by children and youth in the province.

According to the report, the volume of investigation files the Saskatchewan Advocate’s office has received this past year confirms that children and youth continue to suffer unaddressed mental health issues, which results in a concerning increase of suicide attempts and suicidal ideation.

Click to play video: 'Some ‘falling through cracks’ as they age out of youth mental health services: Sask. advocate'

Some ‘falling through cracks’ as they age out of youth mental health services: Sask. advocate

“Mental health, particularly anxiety and depression, that young people face, is also something we continue to note,” said Lisa Broda, Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth. “One of the biggest things that we’re noting particularly…is suicide attempts and death by suicide.”

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The report states the Saskatchewan Advocate’s office saw a marked increase in suicide attempts in 2023, with more than three times as many being reported as than in previous years.

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“Our office (was) notified of an additional 48 attempted suicides and 39 sexual assaulted experienced by children and youth in care,” the report read.

Broda said the solution for unaddressed mental health is to ensure there’s enough resources for young people to access.

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“We made 14 recommendations to address…the gaps in services that we noted systemically,” she said. “One of our recommendations was having counsellors in schools, increasing outreach and just working together to deal with the gaps in services.”

On Wednesday, the Saskatchewan Social Services Minister Gene Makowsky said it is “very much a concern” regarding the suicide attempts going up threefold for children in custody.

“We were able to come forward with recommendations from the Youth Advisory Committee, which is consulting and working with young adults who have been through the system,” said Makowsky. “They have come up with several recommendations that the ministry has acted upon … There’s been the operational oversight unit for group homes. There have been three group homes for mental health that have been funded. One is currently providing services in Saskatoon, in Regina and Prince Albert on the way.”

The Saskatchewan NDP housing & social services critic Meara Conway said they have been sounding the alarm on the prevailing rates of suicide amongst youth across the province for a while now.

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“Mr. (Doyle) Vermette introduced his bill three times. We did finally see this Sask. Party vote in favor of that bill, but then they’ve taken no substantive action on this issue,” said Conway. “It’s very sad to see these numbers, but we’re not surprised. We knew this was coming. And we know this is a crisis. We’d expect to see more from this government on that issue.”

The full report can be read on the Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth website.

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