No One Else Is Doing What Movember Does
Movember is the world’s only charity committed to changing the face of men’s health, encompassing work in mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer. While all male health issues merit airtime, suicide in particular needs more time in the spotlight: it’s the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. As mental health awareness has grown, there is greater public understanding around suicide, its contributing factors and what can be done, but more work needs to be done, says Matthew Shaw, founder of male mental health charity Fundamental. “The statistics around male suicide show a stark reality. One of the key issues surrounding male mental health is our reluctance to talk about it. We have made huge strides in reducing stigma and encouraging conversations, but for many men being honest about their struggles is perceived as an admission of weakness,” Matthew tells SLMan. “The facts are there and we simply must find ways of turning the tide.”
The Pandemic Is Taking An Extra Toll
It’s been a year of curveballs and challenges for everyone, with the pandemic increasing anxiety for many, heightened by the pressures not only of a global health crisis, but of the related social and economic crises. According to Samaritans, four in ten men feel they have been negatively affected by the isolation and social restrictions of the pandemic. “A recent study by the University of Glasgow found suicidal thoughts had increased in lockdown and they were highest among young adults. According to the study, one in four people experienced at least moderate levels of depressive symptoms, with young people again affected the most,” confirms Matthew. “LGBT charities have seen a particularly large rise in cases, with many young men feeling isolated or trapped with homophobic families. We’ve also read about an increase in the number of young fathers worried about their mental health and suffering from depression.” While the world has changed, the goal of Movember hasn’t: it still aims to reduce the number of men dying prematurely by 25% and halve the number of deaths from prostate and testicular cancer by 2030.
Movember Is Working But It’s Not There Yet
Since 2003, Movember has made huge strides to change the dialogue around male health issues, funding ground-breaking projects to encourage men across the world to accelerate change. For Matthew, that change in mindset is imperative: “Mental health is not a side or single issue. We stay mentally healthy if we look after all aspects of ourselves – our physical health, financial wellbeing, relationships and work life. We need to frame mental health as something we all live with, so in the same way that we exercise to stay healthy, we should pay due attention to our minds, moods and thoughts to help us thrive.”
It Can Help You…
While supporting others around you is key, it’s also crucial to look out for yourself. “When it comes to recognising mental health issues in yourself, there’s no one rule. In fact, sometimes you’re the last person to recognise your mental health is deteriorating,” Matthew says. “Are you finding work much harder? Are you eating, drinking and sleeping differently? Are normal everyday tasks becoming more difficult? Are you finding you want to spend less time going out? Check in on yourself and don’t be afraid of what you discover. Write it all down and plan ways of coping differently or more positively. Ask for help if that seems too hard – the people who love you will be there for you. Also check if your place of work has an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – you’d be surprised what support you can access for free.”
…And It Can Help You To Help Others
“Men are far more likely to drink alcohol to cope with their feelings and very few would consider talking to their friends,” says Matthew, “But we are seeing a huge change in 2020 – when we ask someone how they’re doing we really mean it, and this huge shared experience has levelled us all mentally.” If you are worried about a friend, don’t be afraid to ask them if they’re okay and don’t be scared of their honest answer, says Matthew. “It can be tricky when helping a friend who is struggling, as sometimes when people are suffering they don’t show it, instead actively trying to cover up their problems. Don’t try to solve your friend’s problems – just understand them and guide them to seek help. Yes, we all have bad days, but we should be better at talking about them more openly. Men react more to banter and humour. I’m not suggesting we make light of the issue, but use friendly chat and don’t make it too serious. Never preach or patronise, and reveal your own vulnerability too if you feel comfortable with that. These all sound like clichés, but men like results and benefits. Make opening up something positive.”
There Are Many Ways To Get Involved
Growing a moustache is the obvious one, raising funds and awareness for men’s health as you go. If you aren’t keen, there are plenty of other ways to get involved with Movember. If you’re a keen gym goer, get yourself moving and commit to running or walking 60km throughout November. That 60km represents the 60 men lost to suicide every hour across the world. You could also host a virtual event with your friends to raise money for the cause, or support a friend who’s taking part. There are multiple ways you can donate – find out more here.