HeadsUpGuys is a website resource for supporting men in their fight against depression and suicide by providing tips, tools, information about professional services, and stories of recovery.
Since launching in 2015, HeadsUpGuys has had over 1.5 million visits and our depression screening tool has been submitted more than 150,000 times by men 18 and over (depending on their score, visitors are directed to different resources and information).
There is a silent epidemic killing men in staggering numbers across many parts of the globe. It isn’t heart disease, cancer, or kidney disease—it’s suicide. According to the World Health Organization, men account for three times the number of suicides as women. The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported that suicide is the second leading cause of death among men aged 20-29 years and the third leading cause of death among men aged 30-44 years.
Until recently, conversations about men’s mental health and male suicide rates have been few and far between in the media. When a celebrity tragically dies by suicide, social media erupts with condolences and prayers, and yet in our daily lives, how much thought do we give to the ordinary men who decide they can no longer keep living because of the pain they harbour?
There are myriad factors that contribute to suicide among men, many of which we don’t fully understand, yet we do know that depression is strongly associated with suicide, leading one to infer that untreated or poorly treated depression (itself, one of the world’s leading causes of disability) may be one contributing factor in their high suicide rates.
Many men across different societies keep their mental health struggles hidden due to culturally informed ideas of masculinity – the need to be strong, silent, and successful. Others are not able to articulate their experience, their thoughts clouded by emotional pain.
Additionally, men’s reluctance to access professional mental health care has been reported as contributing to the high male suicide rates. Thus, reducing male suicide is reliant, in part, on optimizing men’s mental health help-seeking.
To empower men in a way that honours their needs while promoting growth and change, we developed HeadsUpGuys, a straightforward, action-oriented online tool that reframes depression as a common health issue among men, while offering practical suggestions for developing health-supporting habits. By providing tips, tools, information about professional services, and stories of success, HeadsUpGuys offers a men-friendly medium through which to start the help-seeking process, and serves as an upstream approach to tackling suicidality among men.
By highlighting other men’s stories HeadsUpGuys normalizes the experience of depression and inspires men towards recovery. The site features over 50 stories from men who have fought depression, sharing practical tips that helped them.
HeadsUpGuys has become a much-respected tool for raising awareness, creating connection, and empowering change. Where suicide and depression thrive on isolation and feelings of helplessness, HeadsUpGuys offers millions of men a safe and accessible space to engage their feelings, legitimize their health journey, and develop life-sustaining habits of self-care.
HeadsUpGuys also includes a large section for friends and family members who are looking for how to support a man in their lives.
HeadsUpGuys is based at The University of British Columbia (UBC), and has become a leading global resource for men battling depression.
Since launching in June 2015, our impact has been truly astounding. To date, we have:
- Over 1.6 million visitors
- About 60,000 visits/month
- More than 700,000 social media engagements and 14 million people reached through ongoing social media promotions and campaigns
- Over 75 media features (including CBC, Global TV, Huffington Post Canada, Huffington Post US, Huffington Post UK, The Mighty, Movember Radio, The Telegraph)
- Over 60 sites linking to us as a formal resource
Some of the most popular articles on HeadsUpGuys include:
- How to stop thinking about suicide
- Five steps to overcoming suicidal thoughts
- Five common depressed thoughts and what to do about them
Over 70% of our visitors access the site on a mobile device and about 75% of our traffic comes from organic web searches – a remarkable accomplishment for such a young web site.
Related to organic searches, the top 5 search terms that bring people to our site all relate to suicidal intent, including “I want to kill myself”, “how to kill myself”, and “how to stop suicidal thoughts”. This is a clear indication that we are attracting our intended audience. Further testament to this is that over 75% of men who complete our Self Check (a depression screening tool) score above the threshold for probable depression and 13% score the maximum on the suicide item (indicating that they have suicidal ideation nearly every day). We are very clearly reaching our target population.
A recent addition to our site, the Stress Test has been a popular new feature that men are completing at a high rate. The findings thus far are particularly eye opening, pointing to ‘loneliness’ and ‘lack of meaning or purpose in life’ as the most frequently endorsed stressors.
Founder: Dr. John Ogrodniczuk
Dr. Ogrodniczuk is a Professor and Director of the Psychotherapy Program at The University of British Columbia. In his role as Director, he oversees the operations of North America’s 2nd largest medically based psychotherapy training program. His research has been supported by various provincial and national funding bodies, and has led to more than 150 scientific publications.
Project Coordinator: Josh Beharry
Since recovering from experiences with depression in 2010, Josh has become a passionate advocate for mental health. Josh coordinates HeadsUpGuys communications and website.