Buddy Up for Men’s Suicide Prevention
Middle-aged men die by suicide more than anyone else in Canada, including young people and women (Statistics Canada, 2019). Although this statistic is shocking, men often feel pressured to disregard their emotions and deal with emotional pain through harmful behaviours. In 2020, The Centre for Suicide Prevention (CSP) launched a men’s suicide prevention campaign called Buddy Up to learn how to reach men and prevent men’s suicide. Buddy Up runs one month a year and was created after an initiative that determined men need to know how to recognize a buddy who is struggling and how to help (Buddy Up, 2020). June is Buddy Up month for 2021, and by joining the campaign you become a ‘Champion’ to raise awareness for men’s suicide prevention across Canada. Buddy Up has promoted men’s mental health by spreading awareness through commercials, posters, stickers, hashtags and more. In 2020, Buddy Up had 108 Champions who promoted men’s suicide prevention during September using social media and more than 10,900 print materials. Through continual advocacy and understanding, Buddy Up and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), believes we can protect our men from the risk of suicide by breaking negative stigmas and supporting men in need.
Men die by suicide three times more than women, but women attempt suicide four times more often than men. Men also have a suicide fatality rate three times higher than women (Buddy Up, 2020). As a group, men are generally at higher risk because they tend to choose more lethal means of suicide. It is often that a man who is already feeling inadequate or ‘less than’ a man because of suicidal thoughts will refuse to seek help and attempt to take their life with more intention to succeed (Canetto & Sakinofsky, 1998). In 2019, there were 4,011 suicides in Canada; 3,058 were male (Buddy Up, 2020). Masculinity and suicide are associated with men’s susceptibility to suicide correlating with socialization into gender roles. Men who hold more traditional masculine norms are more likely to hide vulnerability, ignore self-care, or avoid seeking medical help (Mahalik, Burns, & Syzdek, 2007). The excessive pressure from society to conform to traditional modes of masculinity increases the risk of men’s suicidal behaviour (Pirkis, Spittal, Keogh, Mousaferiadis, & Currier, 2017). To break the cycle of men adhering to toxic masculinity norms which creates fear of stigma, mistreatment or being seen as “weak,” Canadians can spread awareness to ensure campaigns like Buddy Up and other male-targeted programs are funded.
Road to Prevention
Men’s suicide has been called the silent epidemic, and it’s time to change that (BC Medical Journal, 2011). “Silent” epidemic describes the lack of general awareness regarding men’s suicide and the severity of the situation. Spreading awareness by drawing attention to men’s mental health and initiatives will make talk of topics like depression and suicide more commonly accepted. Normalizing men’s mental health in society will create more supportive spaces and mutual understanding about men’s mental health needs. It will also lead more people to identify the early signs of a brother, son, husband or friend struggling in silence (Centre for Suicide Prevention, n.d.). Working to increase stigma-free discussion of mental health will lead to greater knowledge and awareness of men’s suicide.
Programs & Education
Buddy Up, CMHA Alberta Division and OSI-CAN are some of the Alberta based programs that provide resources to men. However, the Government of Alberta must continue to invest and prioritize male-focused mental health initiatives and resources such as:
- Non-profit organizations and campaigns like Buddy Up
- Male-specializing professionals (therapists, school counsellors, peer-support leaders)
- Infrastructure (men’s clinics, mental health centres)
Through education, financially prioritizing and normalizing men’s mental health, society can better understand how to address topics like suicide and depression with the men in their lives. A better societal understanding and show of government support will help achieve the goal of reducing and preventing male suicides in Alberta and nationwide.
The best way to help end the stigma is for men to support men that need help. Buddy Up promotes this idea by working to normalize men seeking support and urging others to recognize warning signs in a peer or “buddy.” Men uniting allow people to talk openly about depression and suicide without fear of being seen as weak or vulnerable. Men can also find comfort in being able to relate to one another and sharing similar experiences. The best way to help break the stigma is to create a “brotherhood” type of solidarity and protection for their fellow men. By supporting and uniting men, public perception of men’s mental health can change to become more empathetic and compassionate. The end goal is to break the stigma and erase traditional “masculine” trait expectations which contribute to male suicide (Centre for Suicide Prevention, n.d.).
Suicide Warning Signs
Male suicide cannot be prevented with total certainty, but the risk can be reduced with timely intervention. Family and friends can help the men in their life by recognizing the signs and guiding men to mental health resources like Buddy Up and CMHA. There are a variety of changes and warning signs that loved ones can look for. Suicide warning signs can include losing interest in hobbies or activities, changing in normal patterns, disconnecting from family or friends and talking or planning suicide. By keeping vigilant and checking in on the men in your life, early signs can be noticed and potentially save a life.
The reduction and prevention of men’s suicide is an initiative that needs attention year-round. Although the campaigns are male-focused, it will take a greater understanding from all peoples to help better our men’s mental wellness. Through spreading awareness, education and unifying men, the negative stigma and toxic masculinity expectations that surround men’s mental health can be eliminated. By breaking these social norms for men, we can create a supportive, welcoming environment for men in need. The first step to helping is simply remembering to look out for your buddies.
Join the Buddy Up movement and for more information, visit www.buddyup.ca.
If you or someone you know needs mental health support, please call 211 (in Alberta) or your local distress line.