A young Black is dead by possibly suicide after he attempted to seek help from a local hospital more than once for mental health related issues. He was reportedly refused medical attention and the deceased’s family blamed it on racist segregation.
Samwel Uko, a 20-year-old college football player, took his life in May 2020, after multiple attempts to receive treatment for “depression, anxiety, and sleeping” issues, according to several reports.
Uko arrived at the Regina General Hospital twice, stating that he needed help and was mentally ill. The incident was captured twice on video. After being turned away both times by the hospital, his body was later found in Wascana Lake.
The cause of death was ruled as suicide by drowning and now his family is seeking legal remedy.
Uko, who played for Canadian Junior Football team the Langley Rams, was seen during his first hospital visit in a Snapchat video he shared repeatedly saying “I need help” before a nurse who appeared to be asking him why he was taking a picture. He reportedly sought help that morning as a result of “having trouble sleeping due to chronic pain from a previous car accident and was struggling with depression.”
After telling the staff he was not experiencing suicidal thoughts, he was discharged with medication and mental health resources and was told to return if he felt worse.
Later the same day, Uko allegedly called the police, citing mental health concerns and was escorted back to the hospital. After allegedly refusing to give nurses his name, he could be seen on hospital security footage being forcibly removed by four security guards as he pleaded for help and to be left alone.
Uko’s body was recovered from the lake apparently committing suicide.
The family of the college football player feels that Uko’s pleas were left ignored because he was a Black man. They have filed suit against the Saskatchewan Health Authority over Uko’s death.
“They didn’t care. Because it’s Black people,” Uko’s mother Joice Bakando said. “I know my son. He doesn’t talk bad to people. He’s very, very nice… all the time, when I’m sleeping, I’m thinking of my son.”
“If someone had a different skin tone and they were sitting there, they would have helped. It’s not something we want to debate, or talk about, it’s just reality,” said Samwel’s uncle, Justin Nyee. “The doctors there didn’t care; the nurses didn’t care, nobody cared because of who he is.”
The Saskatchewan Health Authority has admitted that it failed Uko in many respects, but denied that their action was racist. A statement from the SHA reads: “The SHA admits that it failed to meet the standard of care as it failed to provide the necessary follow-up care and assessment that was required.”
The CEO of the provincial health authority, Scott Livingstone, apologized to Samwel’s family and also noted that the health system “failed to provide him the timely assistance he needed. I appreciate there are no words that can bring Samwel back, but I want you to know that we recognize how deeply we failed him,” he wrote in his letter.
According to documents obtained by CBC, Uko’s family received over $80,000 from SHA under Saskatchewan’s Fatal Accidents Act, to cover areas such as funeral expenses and grief counseling. However, there are still lingering questions that they want to be answered.
“What happened to the people working that day? If they would have helped him, he would not have went and committed suicide,” Nyee said. “We did not hear anything from the hospital about that. It’s kind of like, yeah, we apologized, we covered it up, let’s go to the next thing.”
A coroner’s report on the circumstances of his death will be made by September 20.