The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is now conducting an investigation after a former Abbotsford football player died by suicide shortly after visiting a Regina hospital.
The family of former Abbotsford Panthers star running back Samwel Uko said he sought help at the hospital on May 21 after struggling with mental-health issues while visiting them in the Saskatchewan city last week.
They told CBC that a family member drove Uko to the hospital but wasn’t able to wait with him due to COVID-19 rules prohibiting visitors in hospitals.
Uko was then required to fill out forms, but was not mentally ready to complete them.
Videos on social media show Uko repeatedly asking for help while at the hospital.
The family then returned home and Uko stayed in his room, but then left out of a window and headed to Wascana Lake, where he died. The Saskatchewan Coroners Service confirmed it was Uko’s body found in the lake, but a cause of death has not yet been determined.
SHA told The Abbotsford News that they are launching an investigation into what happened at the hospital.
“We are investigating the video fully to determine where and when it may have been taken and the circumstances surrounding it, and will work with other agencies as needed to ensure this is fully reviewed,” stated Lisa Thomson of SHA. “Until such time as we are able to finish our investigation we are not able to determine what occurred.”
Thomson said SHA also expresses its condolences to the family and friends of Uko.
“It is heartbreaking to see this young man’s distress, and we would invite his family members to reach out to our patient advocate services if they feel there is any assistance we may be able to directly provide at 1-866-411-7272,” she said.
Thomson added that SHA emergency department staff are trained to respond to people in all health crises.
Uko, 20, played minor football for the Abbotsford Falcons before starring on both the Abbotsford Panthers junior and senior varsity football teams.
He helped the juniors win a provincial title in Grade 10 and led the seniors to the AA provincial final in Grade 12. He was also named both the offensive most valuable player and the conference MVP in Grade 12.
Uko played one year with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and most recently played one season with the Langley Rams of the Canadian Junior Football League.
A GoFundMe account for the Uko family was created May 22 and has already surpassed its initial goal of $6,000.
A petition by a family friend to increase mental-health services in Uko’s honour was also launched, and it has attracted over 1,100 signatures.
If you feel like you are in crisis or are considering suicide, please call the Crisis Centre BC suicide hotline at 1-800-784-2433.
Some warning signs include suicidal thoughts, anger, recklessness, mood changes, anxiety, lack of purpose, helplessness and substance use.