As Pride Month kicks off, June is also Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month. Statistically, men die by suicide three times more than women, and over the past year the Center for Suicide Prevention (CSP) has tried to spark an authentic conversation on the topic. CSP’s Buddy Up campaign was created by men, for men. The goal of Buddy Up is to promote the conversation around men’s mental health and make it more socially acceptable to men. “Growing up, we were told to ‘grow up’ or ‘grow a pair’. We are in an environment that makes men reluctant to reach out when they need it, ”said Akash Asif, director of external relations for the Center for Suicide Prevention. CSP hopes to change this by promoting “helping-offer behavior” – which encourages people to reach out to friends in difficulty. “Every in 20 people have thoughts of suicide. Everyone has their own stories and lives. We are trying to show that anyone can have these thoughts. From a construction worker to a successful businessman old or young, ”Asif added. “One of the hardest parts is starting a conversation or getting your friend to reach out.” But, by promoting this “help-offering behavior” among friends, Asif hopes men will feel safe enough to speak out. “We always talk to our friends and ask how they’re doing, but it’s never just surface things. We want to promote an authentic conversation between friends. Asif noted. One of the ways to help spread this awareness is to go to buddyup.ca and apply to become a “champion”. The campaign will then provide printed material, such as air fresheners for cars or stickers to put anywhere. Asif pointed out that being a “champion” doesn’t have to involve speaking in public or talking to hundreds of people. “It’s subtle, no expectations and depends entirely on your comfort level.” Asif gave the example of a construction company that became a champion and installed air fresheners in all of its vehicles. “People had reached out to say how important it was for them to feel safe and not ridiculed. It was very special. Asif said he was most proud of Canadians and of the interest in the campaign over the past year, thanks to Canadians. “It’s even starting to spread around the world. With people from Australia, Europe and the United States, to name a few, signing up to become “Champions”. “I know it’s not easy, and sometimes it’s downright scary to reach out to a friend who worries you. But I would challenge everyone to reach out. On Thursday, June 17 at 7 p.m., Horizon School Division is hosting an online workshop on Men’s Health and Suicide Awareness. For more information, visit horizon.ab.ca.
Kenyon Stronski, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, The Taber Times