It’s a stark and sad fact of contemporary life. It is also an opportunity!
In Canada, suicide is not only alarmingly common, but men also have a suicide rate three times higher than women. It may be complicated but research suggests legitimacy in the stereotype. Among men, showing emotion is still perceived as a sign of weakness. So is asking for help.
It is the essential and proactive focus of the Buddy Up concept. A vital call to action – for men and by men – to drive authentic conversation, to generate awareness, listen, educate and offer support about suicide prevention.
Buddy Up is the proactive campaign of Calgary’s Centre for Suicide Prevention, a branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association. The Centre has been invaluable, equipping Canadians with the knowledge, skills and motivation to respond to people considering suicide.
“Men are often socialized not to talk about their emotions, leaving them with the idea that any show of perceived weakness will diminish their ‘manhood’,” explains Akash Asif, the Centre’s strategy and operations director. “It is one reason why some men, instead of reaching out for help, may hide their stress and deal with their emotions through harmful behaviours and actions, sometimes suicide.”
Research shows that men are often taught to prioritize career and financial success over relationships, and they have fewer relationships over time. Fewer people to reach out to for help, and fewer people to notice that they may be struggling. “Buddy Up is meant to help raise awareness, reduce the stigma around suicide, encourage behavioural changes and provide opportunities to connect with buddies.”
He acknowledges that for friends and family the warning signs are often vague, subtle or camouflaged. Any change in behaviour can be a warning sign or invitation for help. So, if someone in your life is acting in a way that makes you worried, they may be struggling – reach out and ask how they are doing.”
Some common warning signs include losing interest in hobbies or activities they normally enjoy, disconnecting from family and friends, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, drinking alcohol or taking drugs, out-of-character risk-taking behaviour such as drunk driving, or talking about wanting to die.
“If you are worried about someone, start a conversation with them. Tell them what you have noticed and why you are concerned,” Asif suggests. “Listen to what they are saying and ask questions to get more information. You don’t need to solve their problems. Just listen without judgement and validate what they are saying.”
Asif emphasizes that everyone has a role to play in suicide prevention and, because many people spend upwards of 60 per cent of their waking hours at work, the workplace is a major part of their lives.
The Suicide Prevention Centre’s Buddy Up Campaign relies on Champions – the involvement, the caring and the support of community and corporate partners. Being a Champion of the Buddy Up campaign is a dynamic community focus of CSV Midstream Solutions, the respected Alberta-based company, offering full services for complete midstream solutions in natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGL) processing.
CSV’s boosting of the Buddy Up campaign goes way beyond the business bottom line. It is about community. “Creating Shared Value is an approach to business that resonates with the way we see the world,” says Daniel Clarke, CEO of CSV Midstream. “And the fundamental belief in the good that people desire, and a shared responsibility to help not just ourselves, but our fellow humans as well.”
Many companies talk-the-talk about ‘community,’ and Clarke emphasizes the unconditional importance for CSV Midstream to walk-the-walk.
“The Creating Shared Value model underpins our business, and it cannot be achieved without identifying critical social issues in the communities we impact. Without spending time in community, we can only create value for ourselves, which is not reflective of what we are trying to do.”
It is how and why CSV Midstream’s championing of Buddy Up began. In some ways, it is a natural connection and a perfect fit. “I’ve been a passionate advocate of mental health for many years and have personally seen the way people can struggle when they lack the resources or relationships to support them,” he notes.
“It is important for everyone at CSV to have an environment where people not only feel comfortable speaking to one another, but also have the tools and resources to identify and communicate effectively.”
Clarke is candid and blunt about the energy sector, especially in the field, still being predominantly male, sometimes creating an extra layer of stigma when it comes to being vulnerable. “We are trying to change that. But it is no secret that workers in our industry often work long hours in remote locations, typically away from their regular support systems. This reality can present challenges for workers and their mental health.
“So we consider our support of Buddy Up to be a proactive measure that could save a life and at minimum, encourage a more open and communicative environment.”