Although you may never have experienced mental health issues or suicidal thoughts, research shows that, in 2016, 22 per cent of Canadian teenagers considered suicide.
The Kids Help Phone Line collected data that indicated 46 per cent had even planned out their suicide. In 2012, suicide was ranked as the ninth leading cause of death in Canada, and according to Statistics Canada, over 4,000 people committed suicide in Canada in 2013.
In the spirit of World Suicide Prevention Day, which is on Sept. 10, we at The Concordian are pleased to let students know about the Buddy Project being launched at Concordia in the coming weeks. The project will shed light on mental health issues and give students the option to sign up online to be paired with a buddy.
The Buddy Project is an initiative founded by 19-year-old Gabby Frost in the United States. Frost’s goal to prevent suicide and raise awareness about mental health began when she was 15. She discovered that many of her friends from school and online were experiencing mental illness, and in April 2013, three girls she interacted with online posted on Twitter about contemplating suicide. That’s when Frost decided to create this project.
On their website, the Buddy Project explains the belief that pairing people with an online friend can help prevent suicide by offering people a peer-support system that might be lacking at home or in their community. According to their website, the Buddy Project mostly focuses on children, teens and young adults by “providing positivity, companionship, resources and education in order to reduce the stigma of mental illness, bullying and negativity on social media.” By putting emphasis on these factors, the project hopes to inspire people to become more compassionate, empathetic and educated about mental health.
The Buddy Project launched their “Bring BP to Your Campus” campaign in March 2017, which involves sending representatives to campuses worldwide. Throughout September, National Suicide Prevention Month, the Buddy Project will be hosted at Concordia, spreading awareness of mental health and the services offered on campus. The campaign will include activities such as sharing stories to encourage education and compassion, creating awareness videos, teaming up with other mental health awareness groups like Jack.org, and displaying posters that shed light on mental illness and mental health. The project is meant to allow students at Concordia to expand their education on mental health and to inspire them to speak up.
Although Concordia won’t be directly involved in pairing students together, the campaign encourages students—who feel they need support, who want to offer up their support or anyone who just wants to talk—to sign up on the Buddy Project website so they can be paired up online. According to Melyssa Aragona, a Buddy Project representative at Concordia, the project pairs people up primarily based on common traits, and your buddy might live anywhere around the world.
Suicide is still a big issue in our country and around the world, but there are many more steps being taken to help change that. On Aug. 27, the MTV Video Music Awards emphasized the importance of suicide prevention and mental health by discussing the suicides of singers Chester Bennington from Linkin Park and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden. The rapper Logic also performed his song, “1-800-273-8255,” which is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. According to CNN, his song drove people to the lifeline in record numbers—the lifeline saw a 50 per cent increase in callers after the performance aired.
It’s difficult to understand or relate to something you’ve never experienced, but it’s easy to take the time to learn and educate yourself on a relevant social issue. Mental health and mental illness are two prevalent issues that should constantly be discussed. The Buddy Project is just one of the ways people can help others—by listening, understanding and shedding light on suicide and mental health.
The project can allow students at Concordia to step forward and share their own experiences with mental health. It creates connections between people who need support and works towards ending the stigma around mental health issues. We at The Concordian strongly encourage students to get involved with the Buddy Project, whether it’s taking steps to better your own mental health or learning how you can help those around you.
Graphics by Zeze Le Lin