Let’s talk about men’s suicide prevention

The Buddy Up Campaign is a men’s suicide prevention program that encourages men to talk to their friends about how they are feeling. Men are often socially more isolated than women so the more men openly talk, the less chance of suicide.

Emily Plihal
Local Journalism
Initiative Reporter

A campaign is sweeping the province, attempting to educate people on how to help men who are dealing with stress and mental health issues.

Studies have shown that men die by suicide three times more than women, and Centre for Suicide Prevention developed the Buddy Up Campaign to help change this reality.

The campaign was launched in 2020 and is held every June, also Men’s Health Month.

“Men are often socialized not to talk about their emotions, and not to seek help, for fear of being ‘weak’,” says client relations coordinator Seth McVeity.

“Men also tend to be more socially isolated than women. That’s why the Buddy Up campaign promotes authentic conversations among men and their buddies and focuses on help-offering behaviour.”

The campaign encourages men to notice when a friend is struggling, to ask how they’re really doing, and offer help if needed. Buddy Up is a call to action for men, by men, to drive authentic conversation amongst men and their buddies. It is suicide prevention.

“Buddy Up Month was created to highlight, to campaign, and to give people an opportunity to participate in activities that promote connection and wellbeing,” says McVeity.

“Buddy Up is now a year-round campaign, with quarterly mini-campaigns highlighting specific activities, in addition to Buddy Up Month.”

McVeity explains that Buddy Up is run by predominantly male advisory committees and focus groups to allow for a closer analysis of what other men may be experiencing.

“Suicide prevention needs to be cross-sectoral; one campaign will not bring down suicide rates,” he explains.

“By promoting open conversation about suicide and mental health, help-offering, and connection, Buddy Up campaign hopes to break down stigma, educate, and foster connection, all of which contribute to suicide prevention,” he adds.

McVeity says their studies have found that men are expected to be stoic, strong, and unfailing. They typically will isolate themselves when things are not going well, instead of discussing their feelings with others.

“With men not reaching out for help, we look to their buddies to offer that support,” says McVeity.

“Buddy Up is a help offering focused campaign. Many men say they don’t seek out help for themselves but would do anything for a buddy. Buddy Up looks to utilize these relationships and get men to check in on their buddies, and how they are really doing.”

The campaign, and now year-round initiative, was created to help with conversations starting. It helps to put suicide prevention conversations in front of men in a non-threatening way. The purpose to is to help reduce the stigma that men cannot talk about their feelings.

McVeity says Talk Suicide is the national suicide crisis line, available 24/7 at (1-833) 456-4566, or via text at 45645 from 2 pm to 10 pm MT. 211.ca is a good resource for community health supports, as is your nearest Canadian Mental Health Association office, Alberta Northwest Region (https://www.gpcmha.ca/).

“We have a toolkit about suicide in men, and how it can be prevented, including by men themselves, available at buddyup.ca/learn,” he says.

“We also have lots of free resources about suicide prevention available at suicideinfo.ca, and offer suicide prevention workshops; more info can be found at suicideinfo.ca.”

The June Challenge happens during Buddy Up Month, where Champions are encouraged to participate in activities that drive connection and promote wellbeing. There’s a June Challenge card listing all the activities, which include things like texting a buddy, learning more about suicide prevention, and going for a walk with a buddy. Although this is a campaign targeting June, McVeity says it can be done at any time. He says the campaign has almost 900 Champion (individuals and organizations) across the country.

Many hosted their own events such as barbecues, car washes, and information booths. They also distributed free resources and held contests and fundraisers within their organizations.

“Buddy Up is also a year-round campaign and Buddy Up Month is just one opportunity for people to participate,” McVeity says.

“We encourage people and organizations to sign up as Champions and participate throughout the year. We have quarterly events including Power Up (Sept. 18 to Sept. 24, 2023), which focuses on strengthening your body and mind, Build Up (Dec. 3 to Dec. 10, 2023), encouraging men to work on a project with a buddy, Lift Up (Feb. 12 to Feb. 18, 2024) encourages people to do acts of kindness for others, and Buddy Up Month (June 1 to June 30), focuses on completing the June Challenge.”

McVeity says that three out of four suicides in Canada are men.

“This staggering statistic shows that there needs to be more supports for men, by men,” he says.

“Though the Buddy Up campaign is focused on men’s suicide prevention, the skills learned in Buddy Up Skills Training are applicable to all genders, and having people trained in suicide prevention in the workplace will help create an environment where people are able to respond to any co-worker who is struggling and offer help. The second and third levels of training are not at all gender specific and are instead focused on suicide prevention and intervention for everyone.”

A new Buddy Up Skills Training was launched in 2023 with CSV Midstream Solutions Inc. and is the first program of its kind in Canada. The training is offered to companies who have large amounts of male staff in order to try to curb the suicide rates amongst men. If your company is interested in offering the training to your staff, you can contact Centre for Suicide Prevention Strategy and Operations Director Akash Asif at akash@suicideinfo.ca.

“Canadians spend 60 per cent of their waking hours at work and we often know our co-workers well and the workplace is well-suited to support people who are struggling, and it’s a great place to have conversations about mental health and suicide prevention,” says McVeity.

“Champions can level up their Buddy Up campaign by building a caring culture in their organizations by implementing Buddy Up Skills training. The training equips workers to skillfully respond to co-workers who are struggling with their mental health or may be considering suicide.”

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