Beard-o-thon/Shave-o-thon for Men’s Mental Health

On 10 June, Rio Tinto employees held a beard-o-thon/shave-o-thon benefitting Transition, a men’s mutual aid and support group run by suicide prevention centre CPS-02. The event rallied dozens of volunteers and participants around the cause of mental health. Rio Tinto matched all funds raised for a total donation of $12,039.

We have all had our worlds shaken by the events of the last two years. François Asselin, Senior Officer for the chemical sector of the Arvida aluminium employees’ union, is no exception. His adaptive capacities were tested at many different levels, leaving him suffering from mental fatigue. “I felt like I was in quicksand. I was sinking a little deeper every day. Everyone could see that, and despite my friends’ and family’s warnings, I wanted to stay strong—but I didn’t know what that word really meant.” He adds that he had the privilege of having people around him to lean on, while many are not so lucky.

After some research, Asselin found Transition, a program specifically for men going through vulnerable times—breakups, workplace conflicts, questioning things, etc.

Through the program, he discovered that he was far from alone in weathering the storm. By sharing his experience, Asselin opened a dialogue about mental health, a topic that remains taboo despite its relevance to so many. “If we helped just one person, we accomplished our goal.”

The idea of holding a fundraiser to raise awareness about mental health, specifically among men, was warmly received and encouraged both by Asselin’s peers and by management. Sabrina Gagnon, Human Resources Advisor, People Experience for Vaudreuil Works, the SPL Treatment Plant and Distribution Jonquière, says, “The initiative was very much in line with the values of care and courage that we advocate for. Directly or indirectly, we all know someone going through difficult times. We also find that, in our facilities where most of the employees are men, they don’t like to speak up and ask for help. The beard-o-thon/shave-o-thon was an opportunity to make that reality more visible and distinct.”

The project came together quickly, with many volunteers signing on immediately. “For me, it was an instant yes,” says Stéphane Coulombe, Operations Manager at West Hydrate and beard-o-thon/shave-o-thon sponsor. “They asked me about it because I had a beard. The decision came from the heart. We want to turn it into a tradition.”

Invitations were sent out in April. Leading up to the big day, the event served as a launchpad for employees to talk more openly about mental health at work and to raise awareness about the resources available for help. “Rio Tinto is a very important ambassador for suicide prevention,” says Mélanie Lapierre, Coordinator of Prevention, Training and Communication Services at CPS-02. “The organisation’s contribution is impressive, in terms of both donations and workplace prevention, and it has made a big difference to the cause.”

The organising committee planned the timing of the event to coincide with “spring cleaning” in different areas, the perfect chance to freshen up. On 10 June, the 16 participants surrendered their beards and hair to a team of volunteer barbers. The beard-o-thon/shave-o-thon was attended by employees from all different areas and facilities. Martin Lavoie, Operations Director at Vaudreuil Works, IPSF and Distribution Jonquière, was among those who cut their hair for the occasion!

Thank you to the many volunteers whose attendance and invaluable involvement made this first-time beard-o-thon/shave-o-thon a success.

Hairdressing DEP students:

  • Élyane Dupuis (student and daughter of Jonathan Dupuis, former West Hydrate Operator and newly appointed Calcination Centre Supervisor)
  • Élodie Savard (student)
  • Émy Pelletier (student)
  • Érika Talon (Instructor and partner of Erik Bouchard, West Hydrate Operator)

Cooks (nearly $1000 raised for the hot dog lunch):

  • Louis Bonneau (Supervisor)
  • Jonathan Dupuis (former West Hydrate Operator and newly appointed Calcination Centre Supervisor)


  • Denis Paquet (Supervisor and celebrated caregiver among his peers)
  • Sabrina Gagnon (Human Resources Advisor)
  • Francois Asselin (Senior Officer, Chemical Sector, Vaudreuil Works)

Transition program:

  • Tshiueten Canapé

The 16 participants:

  • Simon Bergeron (Manager, Vaudreuil Works)
  • Carl Tremblay (Supervisor, Vaudreuil Works)
  • François Meunier (Head of Plant Protection)
  • Michel Aucoin (Process Engineer)
  • Stéphane Boudreault (Manager, Vaudreuil Works)
  • Tom White (Performance Improvement Advisor, Raw Materials and Services)
  • Guillaume Fillion (Maintenance Planner)
  • Michael Merette (Operator)
  • Sébastien Delisle (Manager, Vaudreuil Works)
  • Jérôme Bouchard (Operations Support, Vaudreuil Works–IPSF)
  • Stéphane Tremblay (Supervisor, Vaudreuil Works)
  • Maxime Tessier (Supervisor, Electrical and Storeroom, Port Facilities)
  • Francois Asselin (Senior Officer, Chemical Sector, Vaudreuil Works)
  • Stéphane Coulombe (Manager, Vaudreuil Works)
  • Jean-Philippe Perron (Supervisor, Roberval-Saguenay Locomotive Shop)
  • Mathieu St-Gelais (Manager’s Assistant, Port Facilities)