By Shelley Gershman
Neighbours of Windfields Magazine – December 6th 2018
On October 29th, 2014, my brother Stu’s oldest son Jesse, age 22, died by suicide. Jesse was a “gifted child”, highly accomplished academically throughout his life. By the age of 20 he was working in Silicon Valley at Google, his dream career. Jesse enjoyed life: cycling, hiking, swimming, boating, water polo, snorkeling, camping, golf, piano, travelling, cared deeply about the environment and loved sushi! He was loving, passionate, kind, gentle, funny and yet complicated. My brother Stu Gershman lives in Victoria, BC and is a Sports Medicine Physician and Pain Management Leader. This project, Buddy Check For Jesse, began with my brother wanting to help his other two sons feel supported and to make their teammates understand the importance of mental health.
The goal of Buddy Check For Jesse is to honour Jesse’s memory by recognizing and normalizing how common and pervasive it is to experience struggles with daily coping in youth and young adults. Buddy Check For Jesse was developed for Hockey Coaches to deliver to their teams. This program’s inaugural launch was the weekend of October 27-28, 2018, by BC Hockey in conjunction with the BC Hockey Mental Health Task Force, with participation from teams across Canada.
Stu believes that Coaches of “Canada’s Game” are in a unique position to share this positive message to help raise awareness that mental health issues can affect anyone. Coaches are respected by their players and the players need to know that their coaches care about them. The idea is to create an environment where teammates support one another and are more aware of potential mental health issues so they are prepared to step in with support when they see a teammate, friend or family member struggling.
For the weekend event, Buddy Check For Jesse provided green tape (colour for mental health) to teams so that players could tape their sticks to demonstrate their awareness and support of mental health. Buddy Check For Jesse also provided posters, wallet cards and notes to help coaches share this important message with their teams. Jesse’s family hopes that through creating this unique program in Jesse’s honour, it will help other youth and families.
Stu and our family have been humbled by the enormous response to Buddy Check For Jesse, after the first October event this year. The feedback from kids, parents, and the overall community has been emotional and overwhelmingly positive. We hope that this first launch of Buddy Check will help drive the conversation around how common mental health issues are in youth, to encourage them to reach out for help, and to understand that resources and treatment are available…just like there is for the majority of medical conditions. Stu is extremely grateful for the help he received from his partners (BC Hockey, Suburbia Studios, CBI Health Group, SportsArt.ca, Moa Media) , his family at home, and across the country. Stu is looking forward to the growth and expansion of Buddy Check for Jesse over the next year. Watch for this annual program event every last weekend of October! Remember to “check in with your buddies.”
My brother Stu is a man of courage, strength and grace, has placed his heart and soul into this project and our family is so proud of him!