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Prince George man awarded for bringing mental health program to work

Mark Wilson helped bring the Buddy Up Program to Finning Canada
Mark Wilson with the Buddy Up Trophy for Finning Canada

A Prince George man and the company he works for was recently awarded for their efforts to promote men’s mental health at work.

Finning Canada was awarded the Buddy Up Trophy from the Centre for Suicide Prevention for its employee-led participation in the Buddy Up program, which aims to promote authentic conversations among employees in the workplace.

The initiative began in early 2022 after supervisor Mark Wilson had an emotional discussion with his daughter about not being able to spend more time together.

“It was Christmas 2021 and I had just got back to work after my weeks off, and my youngest daughter said that we haven’t spent much time together and that kind of really hit me hard,” said Wilson.

“I thought if I am having trouble at Christmas right now, I’m pretty sure that some of my guys are too, some of my crew. So, I sent it out in an email and said if you are struggling right now you might want to look into this Buddy Up program. It just took off from there.”

Wilson said many liked the resource and expressed an interest in starting a group at work.

“It’s basically just being aware of the people around you and keeping a close eye on buddy’s if they are having a rough time. It gives you like ways to start a conversation with people and where to go with it if they are having problems.”

Wilson said a few of his colleagues really championed the program and their morning meetings after the day’s business was discussed eventually became a time where people would look at the Buddy Up leaflets and chat about what was going on in their lives.

“We talked about experiences. Like I'm diagnosed with PTSD. I'm ex-military so I have stories and things. I mean, it just opened a whole conversation within the group. It was really cool to see actually.”

According to Buddy Up, middle-aged men (40-60) die by suicide more than anyone else, including young people and women. In 2019, 1,169 men aged 45-64 died by suicide.

This is especially relevant in remote regions and industry where attitudes around mental health have not always been as progressive, yet many carry extra pressures, stress and emotional burdens including from spending significant time away from home and missing out on holidays and life events.

“We wanted to create something that resonated. Something that was approachable for individuals, and we wanted to create something for men, by men, as well,” said Akash Asif, strategy and operations director, from the Centre for Suicide Prevention.

“If you can integrate a mental health program or suicide prevention program [at work], it helps break down the stigma and it creates an environment where it's okay to seek that help when you're not doing well.”

He said the program helps give people the tools to have those conversations and know what to say and to help connect those in need to resources like crisis lines and counsellors.

Wilson initially introduced Buddy Up to his team in the Alberta oil sands region but has since transferred to Prince George and introduced it to his new team.

Finning Canada says there has been organic employee-led uptake across the business. It has also helped to challenge stereotypes and provide a forum for conversation that never existed in the past. Employees have opened up about struggles, challenges, worries, feelings and ultimately supported each other.

“Finning is now a Buddy Up champion company. We won the Canadian champion company award just a few weeks ago,” said Wilson. “It was a massive team effort within Finning and I just think it's really, really important to break the stigma of this, and really get people to start talking about it, because it is a problem.”

If you or someone you know is thinking about ending their life or are concerned about someone who is, you can call: