Buddy Up is a men’s suicide prevention campaign created to be a call to action to men, by men, to start authentic conversation among men and their friends.
The annual initiative kicked off at the end of September and has a series of suggestions about what men can do to help reduce the rate of suicide.
In Canada, men have a suicide rate three times higher than women. The campaign says that society has created an expectation of men to be strong, stoic, and self-reliant, that showing emotion or asking for help is a sign of weakness. The campaign was created because such a large number of men are dying of something that could potentially be prevented.
Centre for Suicide Prevention Strategy and Operations director Akash Asif says the centre wanted to create a campaign that works. He notes men, specifically middle-aged men from 45 to 64 years of age, are dying of suicide in alarming numbers and that this needs to be curbed.
“During our initial conversations with men, we identified a few important learnings,” says Asif. “First, men recognize there is an issue and want to be a part of the solution. Secondly, although guys may not be willing to ask for help for themselves, we are very willing to provide support for our buddies and keep them safe.”
The Buddy Up campaign was launched in 2020 to promote conversation among men and their buddies. Buddy Up focuses on help-offering behaviour, with the campaign targeting the community and friends of someone considering suicide. In essence, men are being asked to take care of their buddies.
“With the tagline, ‘how are you doing’, we developed cartoon-like characters who each have a story,” says Asif. “The characters make the campaign approachable because people can relate these characters and their stories with someone in their life. Alongside the characters, we developed a four-step guide for how men can support our buddies.”
Asif says there are a number of donors and funders for the campaign, with the lead funder being Viewpoint Foundation for several years.
“The Buddy Up campaign is year-round from July 1 to June 30,” says Asif. “The campaign has a total of 12 activities that can be completed once per month or as desired.”
The activities include four mini campaigns and eight anytime activities, with each activity meant to drive social connection and anyone can participate.
The four quarterly campaigns include Power Up to strengthen body and mind from Sept. 26 to Oct. 2, Build Up to work on a project from Dec. 5 to Dec. 11, Lift Up to do acts of kindness for others from Feb. 15 to Feb. 19, and Buddy Up Month from June 1 to June 30.
“These weeks serve as reminders that it is important to stay connected with one another,” he says. “Throughout the weeks, we ask participants to share about their activities on social media to encourage others to do the same.”
Asif says they understand not everyone is able to participate in the weeks allocated for the challenges, but that there are no minimum expectations, and that engagement is dependant on the person’s level of comfort. Eight other activities people can do throughout the year include ordering swag, exercising, volunteering, incorporating Buddy Up into an event, recruit a new champion, learn about suicide prevention, host a game night, or learn a new skill.
People can sign up as a Champion on the Buddy Up website, www.buddyup.ca, as an individual or as a group. There are no costs to sign up and no level of expectations. The campaign currently has over 800 champions from across Canada and also some international champions.
“Buddy Up focuses on help-offering behaviour, which means that the campaign targets the community and friends of someone who may be struggling with thoughts about suicide,” says Asif. “At any given time, one in 20 individuals is struggling with suicidal thoughts, we are challenging the other 19 to pay attention and provide support.”
Asif notes in order to learn the signs of a male friend struggling, it’s important to start paying attention to people around us and noticing changes in someone’s behaviour. These signs can include not texting or calling as much, drinking more than usual, or appearing tired and distant.
If you’re considering suicide or know someone who may need assistance, help is available. Please call the crisis line at (1-833) 456-4566.
To learn more about the initiative please visit the website at www.buddyup.ca.