You have a role to play

Isabella Ng - 07 October 2021

Did you know that 11 Edmontonians attempt or die by suicide every day? Seeing this statistic plastered on the LRT or city busses serves as an important reminder to check in with others, whether close loved ones or recently-made acquaintances. Additionally, that number is something we should reflect on and strive to lower, particularly during this turbulent, ever-changing school year.

Although suicide is most common in middle-aged populations, declined mental health and suicidal ideation is prevalent in students, especially in university.

Those who identify as male are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. The Buddy Up Campaign is an effort to combat this statistic by promoting a 4-step authentic conversation guide to help open a conversation about suicide:

  1. Pay attention
  2. Start a conversation
  3. Keep it going
  4. Stick to your role

This year, the University of Alberta championed the Centre for Suicide Prevention’s Buddy Up campaign. with Buddy Up to better support students who may be struggling, or who have questions about how to help their peers. I had the opportunity to sit down with Akash, the External Relations Director with the Centre for Suicide Prevention as well as the leader of the Buddy Up campaign, and ask a few questions about why these supports are beneficial to students.

Q: Would you be able to describe the Buddy Up Campaign? Why is it important? What does it mean to you?

A: Often, men are hesitant to seek out help themselves but more willing to find help for a buddy. Therefore, this campaign is asking the community, friends, family, and colleagues to pay attention and reach out to someone who may be struggling.

Social connection and just being around people in general is a protective factor against deteriorating mental health. Residence has the potential to be a community where students can expect authentic mental health check-ins in that way, offering a safety net for those who are considering suicide.

Even still, residence is a large and overwhelming community so it can be hard to start a genuine conversation about mental health with those you pass in the halls or sit down with at the cafeteria. However, it’s important to pay attention and ask if you think someone is not okay. Let them know that they’re not alone and that help is always available..

Furthermore, when someone asks, “How are you?” I encourage you to answer honestly. We’re so inclined to give the usual, “Fine, good. You?” when really, we should take a moment to tell them at least a little bit of how we’re really doing.

Interested in getting involved and educated about suicide prevention? Start with what’s approachable and relatable to you, as Akash encourages. There’s no cost in being a Buddy Up champion and the four-step guide above can be utilized with anyone, not just men. Research warning signs, know the statistics, and participate in Buddy Up month during June!

If you or someone you know is in need of immediate assistance, call 211 or a distress centre. It’s an accessible and confidential way to get real-time, effective help. You can always call alone or along with someone you trust.

There are also tons of long term mental health and wellness support for residents. If you ever need a place to talk, feel free to go to your RAs, who have basic mental health training and can put you in contact with more resources in residence, campus and Edmonton.

Statistics from