Neighbours of Windfields Magazine, Toronto, Ontario

Publisher: Janet Russel

Buddy Check For Jesse Update:
Turning a Family Tragedy into Healing, Hope and Saving Lives

Submitted by Shelley Gershman

On October 29th, 2014, my brother Stu’s oldest son Jesse, age 22, died by suicide. Jesse was a “gifted child”. By age 20 he was working in Silicon Valley at Google, his dream career. Stu Gershman, a Sports Medicine Doctor and Pain Management Leader lives in Victoria, BC. Stu was looking for a way to help his other two sons feel supported and to make their teammates understand the importance of mental health.

Stu created Buddy Check For Jesse (BCFJ) in memory of Jesse. In an effort to help coaches destigmatize mental health challenges, Stu created the “green tape” initiative. Green is the colour for mental health. Hockey players are encouraged to tape their sticks to demonstrate awareness and support of mental health. The program is in its 2nd year and supported by BC Hockey. The annual event took place this year on the weekend of October 26-27.

Buddy Check for Jesse has already helped 1000s of hockey players learn acceptance and understanding by providing material and information to coaches to assist in educating their team on the importance of supporting one another through mental health challenges. The goal is simple: help create an environment where teammates support one another and are more aware of the mental health challenges rampant amongst our youth today.

Stu was honoured with two awards in recognition of his BCFJ program. On April 13th, 2019, Stu received the prestigious BC Sport Volunteer Award for his spirit of volunteerism, and dedication, energy and commitment which contributes to the development of sport in the province of British Columbia. On June 18th, 2019, Stu received the BC Hockey Safety Recognition Award which acknowledges outstanding service by a volunteer who has devoted his/her time to assist safety and risk management within BC Hockey. The award galas and acceptance speeches may be viewed on the Buddy Check website under “media”.

This year BCFJ will fund 1100 teams and provide green tape, wristbands and print material for the coaches and players to continue to raise awareness for mental health challenges and mental illness.

The other wonderful news is that BCFJ has received the ability to accept donations through BC Amateur Sport Fund administered through Sport BC.

Stu's son Max and Stu at awards ceremony
Stu’s son Max and Stu at awards ceremony

We hope that the 2nd BCFJ event will continue to drive the conversation around how common mental health issues are in youth and encourage them to reach out for help, and to understand that resources AND treatment are available.

Stu is looking forward to expansion across Canada in 2020. Remember to “check in with your buddies”.