We’re proud to launch our Have a Word with Yourself Campaign to get the message out to Canadian youth about the importance of helmet safety.

Funding for this initiative is provided in part by the Public Health Agency of Canada1. We’re working closely with Parachute, a national charitable organization dedicated to preventing injury and saving lives, to implement this campaign.

Injuries from sports and recreational activities make up a significant proportion of the injuries suffered by youth up to age 19.

Our campaign goal is simple: encourage Canadian youth to wear a helmet whenever they cycle, mountain bike, skateboard, ski, or snowboard— and to make sure their friends and family to do the same. We want to make our kids aware of the consequences of not wearing head protection, and to shift their attitudes about safety in general.

By getting youth into the habit of wearing a helmet now, we can ensure they stay safe throughout the rest of their lives.

The issue

  • Preventable injuries are the leading cause of death for Canadian youth under age 18.
    66% of all injuries among young people aged 12 to 19 happen during sporting and/or recreational activities.
  • Ski and snowboard helmets reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury by up to 60%.
  • It takes longer for youth to recover from these injuries than other age groups.
  • Across Canada, only 37% of cyclists wear their helmets “all of the time.” In a Canadian study of severe injuries and fatalities among cyclists, skateboarders and inline skaters, it was found that 42% of those who did not wear a helmet suffered head injuries, compared with 23% who wore a helmet.

We need this to change. And the only way it will change is if we change our attitude.

Target audience

Our campaign is directed to Canadian youth aged 13 to 19. Youth behaviour is highly influenced by peer pressure and social norms; sometimes these norms lead to perceptions that being safe is “uncool.”

This group has a tendency to engage in high-risk behaviour because they believe serious injuries only happen to “someone else,” and they are agile and flexible enough to avoid injuries.

Our objective

No one wants to get injured. Problem is, nobody thinks injuries can happen to them. But they can. To you, and to people close to you.

The goal of our campaign is simple: encourage young people like you to use a helmet when they go cycling, mountain biking, skiing, and snowboarding. By getting people to think twice before they choose not to wear a helmet, we can dramatically decrease both the number and the severity of head injuries among young people.

By getting into the habit of wearing a helmet now, you can stay safe throughout the rest of your life.

Our one key message

We want to describe our goal in a quick, succinct way:

Before you think you won’t need a helmet today,
have a word with yourself.

Our goal is not to give people a lecture or tell people what to do. Instead, we want them to think for themselves. That’s the best way to get people to change their attitude toward preventable injuries: if they listen to themselves.

How are we going to do it?

The campaign Have a Word with Yourself is running in select Canadian high schools between October 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013. Ten Canadian high schools have been introduced to the campaign and trained in head injury prevention and helmet safety. Preventable believes that youth are in the best position to educate their peers on the seriousness of head injuries and that is why young people will be leading the charge. The students are running a series of innovative activities (e.g. melon splat, wear the gear fashion show, etc.) to raise awareness about the importance of wearing a helmet and encourage critical thinking from students.

To launch the campaign in November 2012 the students were challenged to use “flash mobs” to surprise their classmates with the helmet message (check out the pictures on Preventable’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/preventableinjuries and Parachute’s blog for more details www.parachutecanada.org/blog/item/student-flash-mobs-promote-helmet-use.) In North Bay (ON) for example, helmeted students at Chippewa Intermediate and Secondary School suddenly appeared in front of their lunch-eating classmates to perform a choreographed dance the students had been preparing for weeks.

As part of the campaign, Preventable is running a national photo contest called “Mess Your Hair, Not Your Head” from Dec 10, 2012 to Jan 24, 2013, where all Canadian high school students are asked to submit their best helmet hair photo on Preventable’s Facebook page – a picture of their hair after hockey practice, long bike ride or afternoon at the skate park. Once the photos are submitted, everyone can vote online between Jan 25 and Feb 1, 2013. Further details are available online on Preventable’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/preventableinjuries).

Check back in a few weeks for campaign updates.

1 The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the Public Health Agency of Canada.