Yo Dude You Matter is a local group giving men a voice when they feel they don’t have one

From left: Justin Buice and Vince Atha at a recent meeting of “Yo Dude! You Matter!” – a self-help group to give men a voice before it’s too late. Photo credit: Sharon Swanepoel

WALTON COUNTY, GA (Sept. 17, 2023) Men traditionally have been raised to believe that you don’t show weakness, no matter how bad you may feel. You just suck it up and deal with it. Women, on the other hand, have always been encouraged to share their feelings, let it out – “It will make you feel better.”

But some feel that even for men, burying your issues, not dealing with them, or at least talking to someone about them, is not healthy. And out of this, a local group for men has been formed to address the issue.

Yo Dude! You Matter! is a group that was recently formed in Walton County by Justin Buice, a combat veteran who said it has been on his mind for more than a year to do something to help other combat veterans – especially in the light of the high suicide rate for veterans.

“Twenty-two a day – that’s 22 veterans who die by suicide every day,” Buice said, acknowledging that he quite easily could have been one of those statistics himself. He even got close. He said he struggled to deal with the trauma he went through for about 10 years after returning injured from a tour in Afghanistan. He said he kept his demons inside but finally managed to beat them a couple of years ago – and now he wants to help others who are struggling

But he also found out that it’s not just veterans who are at risk for suicide. It is not just men either, but men, and veterans, are the highest casualties when it comes to suicide.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among males in 2021 was approximately four times higher than the rate among females. Males make up 50% of the population but nearly 80% of suicides. And veterans make up a large proportion of that 80%.

It was the suicide of yet another friend last month that finally prompted Buice to do something about it. He said for him this suicide was just that one too many.

“I had this idea for over a year for combat veterans – originally to help others with what I went through,” Buice said. “But then with Tray, I realized how close me and everyone around was to Tray and it hit home harder then some of the other times. I thought to myself that what I wanted to do needs to be for all men – not just combat vets.”

Tray Crispino lost his life to suicide on Aug. 17, 2023 – and the first Yo Dude! You Matter! meeting took place just five days later.

“I made an event on Facebook for the first meet and it blew the hell up,” Buice said. “It was extremely mind blowing and now I can’t stop. It’s already helped so many.”

The post that Buice made on his Facebook post gave just a day’s notice, and more than 30 men turned up for that first meeting. The post read, “What if I every week set aside 30 mins for MEN to all get together ( location tbd ) and just talk, to get things off your chest, bitch moan whatever. Of course what’s said in the group stays there! I’m ready! All ages, teens need to learn it’s OK to not be OK! I’m sick of asking what if … what if he told someone, what if I would have talked to him etc … Men today are muscles outside and tears within, we have to be there for each other, we have to talk!”

After the first two meetings, Buice realized this need was big, much bigger than he realized. Another friend of Tray Crispino’s, Vince Atha, helped him make contact with the owner of Tacos and Beer in Monroe and another meeting took place in the room above the restaurant. Atha is not a veteran, but he said he is someone who also had to battle demons and, like Buice, came very close to taking his own life. He understands the struggle.

“It was what it would have done to my grandfather that stopped me,” Atha said. “I believe that being able to share, like we can do in this group, can help others.”

Terry Crispino, the brother of Tray Crispino, is another of the men who has taken advantage of the group. He said it is helping him deal with his brother’s death and he hopes his experiences will enable him to help others in the group. He attended the first group meeting.

“One of the reasons Justin started the group was due to the passing of my brother and that being the ‘last straw’ so to speak. I am so proud of Justin for starting this group and incredibly grateful he’s taking a stand against letting this continue to happen,” he said.  “I hope that as my ‘demons’ arise or negative thoughts/emotions present themselves that I can share them with the group. Being able to lean on others in these instances while receiving their support has been monumental. Everyone has been extremely quick to offer positive thoughts and uplift their fellow man in low moments. I’ve experienced this personally, witnessed it with others during meetings and also seen a ton of this support going around the group Facebook page.”

Buice said that because of the huge response, in the meetings and on the Facebook group page, Yo Dude! You Matter! where men can share their thoughts and get feedback, they have decided to make time for two meetings a month. The owner of Tacos and Beer is allowing the group to use the front upstairs room every other Tuesday.

The next meeting will be 7:30, Tuesday, Sept. 26, at 7:30 at Tacos and Beer, 116 N Broad Street in Monroe. It is MEN ONLY – and no alcohol will be served.

“We want everybody to be of sound mind,” Buice said. “It is to help talk it out. Drowning it with alcohol doesn’t help.”

The Facebook Group, also MEN ONLY, can be reached at this link.

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