The Buddy Up campaign seeks to promote conversations surrounding mental health between men and their buddies. PHOTO: COURTESY OF CENTRE FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION

Editor’s note:

If you or a loved one need help regarding suicide, you can call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service’s 24/7/365 free support line at 1-833-456-4566.

You can also text 45645 between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m.

According to Statistics Canada, middle-aged men die by suicide more than anyone else. In 2019, there were 4,011 suicides in Canada, 3,058 of which were men. 

June has been designated as men’s health month, and Calgary’s Centre for Suicide Prevention has launched a campaign designed to open the conversation surrounding men’s mental health. 

The campaign, titled “Buddy Up,” seeks to promote conversations of mental health between men and their buddies. Akash Asif, the external relations director at the Centre for Suicide Prevention, says men aren’t usually willing to ask for help for themselves, but they are willing to support their buddies.

“In Canada, men are dying by suicide at alarming numbers,” says Asif. “There’s this expectation that you don’t need to have conversations and you’ll just persevere through every situation. So, due to these expectations, men are often less likely than other groups to seek help if they are struggling.” 

The primary goal of the Buddy Up program is to normalize having conversations about mental health with your friends. The initiative’s tagline, ‘How are you really doing?’ serves as a prompt to start these conversations.

The tagline of the Buddy Up campaign, calls for men to make sure they have genuine conversation about their mental health with their buddies. PHOTO: COURTESY OF CENTRE FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION

“I think what we’re really trying to encourage guys to do with this campaign is to really pay attention and take a look at what the change in behaviours can look like,” says Asif. 

Asif says men are oftentimes expected to be stoic, which can make it hard to visualize when someone may be going through a difficult time. This prompted the campaign to create characters that can help people better understand men’s mental health. 

“The characters really make the campaign approachable because people can relate to these characters and their stories with someone in their life,” says Asif. 

The campaign is open for everyone, with the primary goal of simply starting conversations. There is also the opportunity to become a “champion,” which involves spreading the word through social media posts, and various promotional items. 

There is no cost and no minimum requirements to join the campaign, and Asif says your level of engagement depends on your own level of comfort. Asif believes using the free items to promote the campaign, can help with the process of starting conversations.

“You put stickers on the back of your Hard Hat, or your laptop, or your water bottle. What that’s doing is it’s promoting safe conversations and that safe space,” says Asif.

“When your buddy asks you what it’s about, it’s easier to talk about it. What you’re showing there is that you care, you’re someone who cares about them.” 

By using free Buddy Up swag items, you can indirectly communicate to those around you that you are a safe person to talk to about mental health. PHOTO: COURTESY OF CENTRE FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION

Brady Edwards, a champion and member of the Buddy Up Campaign since its inception in 2020, got involved as a way to help support members of his community.

“Suicide prevention is important to me because it is a way to literally save lives,” says Edwards. “There’s no reason to not talk about it. And if you don’t, it could cost someone their life.” 

Edwards believes continuing the conversation around mental health with friends and family is one of the most important steps of the process. 

“Keep that conversation going. Don’t just accept ‘oh I’m fine’ and move on if you can see something that really appears wrong,” says Edwards. 

The ultimate goal is to make sure others are receiving the support that they need. Asif says it’s important to start the conversation, but sticking to your role is vital.

“You were courageous enough to start that conversation, keep it going, but you don’t have to do it alone. Help is available, help connect that person to the proper help and support.”

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