Movember: Beyond the Moustache

Don’t be alarmed if you start seeing more moustaches around town than usual. It’s not just your imagination either. There actually will be an uptick in men sporting facial hair just for the month of November. Why? Because it’s that time of year again — Movember.

What is Movember?

Every November, people grow moustaches in order to raise awareness for men’s health issues. Hence the name Movember, which is a combination of moustache and November. This annual event hopes to bring attention to the men’s health crisis that is going on. 

Issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention, are notoriously underdiscussed. As a result, many men are dying young, because they couldn’t see the signs or just couldn’t get the help they needed. 

A charity event is run by the Movember Foundation where people can sign up to raise money for men’s health projects as they grow a moustache.

How did it start?

Back in 2003, two friends from Australia complained about how the 70s-style moustache (think Freddie Mercury) had faded out of style. Over a few drinks, Travis Garone and Luke Slattery came up with a goal to get 30 men to grow moustaches for 30 days to raise awareness for men’s cancer. 

By the next year, 480 people had participated and together raised AUD$54,000 for charity. 18 years later, more than 6 million people globally  have participated in Movember and over 1,250 men’s health projects have been funded by the foundation. 

Why men’s health?

Men’s health issues are rarely talked about, making them silent killers. A product of toxic masculinity, men have long been told to “man up” and not show weakness for fear of appearing less masculine. When it comes to testicular and prostate cancer, this means that men often don’t even realise that they should be getting regular check-ups. 

For women, getting regular breast cancer screening is a commonplace topic and is openly discussed. For men on the other hand, the “taboo” nature of health issues leads to a lack of knowledge and even an unwillingness to go to the doctor. This becomes problematic as prostate cancer often carries no symptoms and can only be detected by a doctor through testing.

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach seems to be the go-to for many men. Unfortunately, this approach might just be one of the contributing factors to the higher suicide rates among men. Three quarters of all suicides are by men. Men often aren’t given the space to properly talk about their emotions, especially if they’re feeling depressed. 

Another issue is that even when they feel comfortable enough to talk about it with their friends, they might not always have the right things to say or they might say the wrong thing. A lack of practice, alongside a society that has conditioned men to be “tough” and “unemotional”, have inadvertently created an environment that breeds isolation and alienation.

What can you do to help?

You can support the cause by signing up for Movember on the foundation’s website. If growing a ‘stache isn’t quite your speed, there are plenty of other events to take part in, such as Move for Movember, a running event. You can also donate directly to men’s health charities or to the foundation. 

Of course, the most direct way to enact change is to talk to the men in your life. Whether it’s simply checking in with how they’re doing or encouraging them to get a health check, it’s important to remember those around you. 

It’s easy to lose sight of those closest to us in the face of big picture events like Movember. Those who need the most help might just be sitting next to you at the dinner table.

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